We live in reality. Some of us live in our dreams too. For a few it is just a dream, but for a few it is an ‘Alternate Reality’.
Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra, takes us through the life of Balwant Srivatsav, set in the backdrop of the Mumbai suburban railways. He comes across as an introvert who finds it difficult to communicate with other people. He is unable o express himself clearly and no one seems to be able to understand him, except perhaps his friend, the one person who treats him the way he wishes to be treated, Vandana.His family is not particularly proud of him and he chooses to distance himself from them to avoid unnecessary tension in the family. The book deals about how he deals with various people, how he realizes his own potential in the most unusual circumstances and how he creates a mark for himself in an unassuming manner.
Balwant Srivatsav or Babloo as he is known lives in his own world and keeps to himself. Being the elder of the two sons of Amar and Sudha, he grows up devoid of the love and affection from his parents. He is physically fit and mentally sound, but he has trouble maintaining a conversation with people. He finds it difficult to assimilate words spoken very quickly and hence is left to keep staring without a clue as to what is going on. He is content with his daily routine and is not bothered of anyone other than Vandana. Vandana is portrayed as a very independent woman who dreams to make it big in the advertising agency. Being beautiful and intelligent, she is a bit wary of men but finds a good friend in Babloo. Sikander, his childhood friend, promises to set up Babloo’s with Vandana. But he has his own intentions.To that purpose, Babloo introduces Vandana to Sikander who seem to strike a chord from the beginning.

Meanwhile, Amar who works as a clerk in the Railways wants to get his younger son Raghu, married to the daughter of Shekhar Gupta,Vandana. Vandana, being a romantic at heart is pissed off at the alliance and the lifeless personality of Raghu. But the families are content at the alliance. So we have Babloo who dreams to get married to Vandana, we have Raghu with the same dreams but with a brighter prospects and we have Sikander with his own plans. And, we have the superhero “Rail Man”. What happens after this, how people find out the truth about others and what happens to the Rail Man forms the remaining part of the story.
Babloo’s character has been brilliantly portrayed. The reader is forced to sympathize with him after one gets to know what treatment is meted out to him and how he stumbles when trying to connect words and make sense. It is difficult to express in words the emotions that such a person goes through and to convey the exact thoughts in words. The author has done a wonderful job there. The book has a lot of interesting mix of characters, innocent Babloo, independent Vandana, sly Sikander and they are all brought together and they seem to blend very well with the storyline. The story is fast paced and doesn’t seem to drag around. The backdrop of the Mumbai suburban railways and the Railway colony goes well with the story and towards the end you know why the author has chosen it. And most important of all, it seems very real and none of the characters or situations is exaggerated.
On the whole it was a refreshing read. It took me 3 days to read the first 5 pages and about one day to read the remaining 261 pages. That should give you an idea of how it maintains the attention of the reader. The book cover has a wonderful picture that depicts the entire book well. I had a lot of expectations on seeing the cover and it definitely lived up to it.