There it was - further validation of my career path buried in the last couple pages of a sweeping paean to Bombay, India (Maybe you know it as Mumbai.)
Even with a few summer afternoons with reading as the only agenda item, it still took me 5 weeks to read Suketu Mehta’s book Maximum City, about his rediscovery of Bombay decades after having left for the United States as a child. He tells rich, intricate stories of bar dancers, gangsters, slum dwellers, Bollywood producers, and everybody in between. Woven throughout are his personal reflections on finding his own place in a dizzying metropolis of 13 million (at the time), and growing at the speed of light.
I was eager to see how he would tie up such a boundless story of the human experience, and was stopped in my tracks when this was a part of it:
“Surviving in a modern country involves dealing with an immense amount of paper. He who can stay on top of the paper wins.” - Author Suketu Metha on returning to life in the United States after living abroad in Bombay
Yes, getting on top of your paper matters. Yes, the little stuff weighs us down in big ways. Yes, order = freedom.
An update, one month later:
A month ago I posted two sentences author Suketu Mehta wrote at the end of his book on Bombay “Maximum City,” anticipating his return to the US:
“Surviving in a modern country involves dealing with an immense amount of paper. He who can stay on top of the paper wins.”
Read the post for how excited I was to read that. You can imagine how excited I was then, when, last Friday night, I had a chance to talk with Mr. Mehta at a small dinner at my friend’s underground Indian supper club here in DC. He was made famous for writing the stories of people both thriving and surviving in one of the world’s densest cities. He and I talked about the stories people tell us. I asked about how to better write those stories.
I highly recommend his new book This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto. It’s about understanding the vast beneficial roles immigrants from all parts of the world play when they leave their country or origin and the reasons why they leave, often at great risk. No matter your current opinions on this controversial topic, there are moving arguments made here that you have never heard before.
I cherish my copy for Mehta’s personal inscription: