Anu Kumar reviews The Smoke is Rising by Mahesh Rao (Random House/ Daunt Books 2014)
There are many stories swirling in Mahesh Rao’s novel The Smoke is Rising. We know it is set in Mysore, for in the beginning, we read of the proposal to transform acres of farm land into a theme park to showcase Mysore’s history and culture. We get an idea of the novel’s time when there is reference to India’s mission to the moon, and a city that is more crowded than before as Girish finds during his home commute. There are road names that appear in a flash, a bit of conversation where the local lingo appears, but The Smoke is Rising could really have been set in any Indian city of recent vintage.
The sprawling city that Mysore is, not just in fact but in Rao’s novel, with years of history and a rich tourism potential, makes sporadic appearances in this book. The book instead is teeming with people, whose lives we step into. Characters that could have appeared in any other sleepy, now awakening old town.