Citing its genre as “Completely Unique Plethora’, this slowly cooked pizza is a delight for all readers!
With forewords from Paul Gayler (MBE) and Chrissie Walker, the preface has an emotional appeal from Prahlad Hedge.
The eight stories span a meal of pizza, where each ingredient lends its unique flavour as a story. It follows Elena Berlusconi, an Italian who arrives in Bombay to decode the immense, far-flung success of the pizza chain, La Javvaab Pizza. Chatting with the chef over the pizza, she is enamoured by the tales he narrates.
The first story is ‘The Knife’ that brings the tongue-in-cheek reference to green, yellow, and red capsicums, equating them to three strong mafia men. The story proceeds to inform how Don Chaku rose to popularity. The narration is crisp and is liberally sprinkled with the local Bombay lingo, adding the touch of authenticity.
It is followed by ‘Veluswamy’. The words of this quasi-poem rise from the pages just like the famous yeast of Veluswamy. The language is fluent and engaging, and it hits you in the right spots. Just like a well-leavened pizza base should.
The third story in the anthology, titled, ‘The Melancholy’ addressed the integral ingredient, mushroom. It brings to light how darkness is where the red light (prostitution) blossoms. Just like the mushroom, under the cover of the night, the sex workers go about their lives. It uses mushrooms growing on decayed soil as a metaphor for the plight and lives of the sex workers.
The fourth tale to impress the users is ‘Jhumroo’. Jhumroo a village bum lands in Mumbai and the tale covers his journey from being a simpleton, an onion to the highly coveted caramelized onions. It peels away the layers that make the man who he is, all the time using the humble onion as a simile.
‘His Story by Her’ steps away from the land of fiction to gently sway into reality. It chronicles the story of a bread connoisseur and foodie whose weakness is baked products. From an overindulgence in them, leading to health issues, the author describes how her husband experienced a turnaround. Now a regular marathoner, it illustrates the evils of excessive and strikes upon the need for balance in our lives and our meals.
This moves the reader to the interesting story ‘The left-out sachets’, which briefly draws upon the wealth disparity in India, and how, her below the poverty line, citizens strive for months to collect money for a meal, the more blessed ones spend in an hour! It follows the exploits of Keshavji, who wanted to provide the best future for his children, his Ram Ratan. The end leaves us with a bittersweet feeling.
‘The born actor’ the seventh offering follows the quasi-poetry pattern set in tale #2. It delights the user by cataloguing the life of basil, the humble ingredient whose aroma is peerless. The language flows beautifully and the user laps it up. It’s as fragrant as the basil leaves it is all about.
The penultimate chapter ties the previous tales with the life of Sweezy in ‘Sweezy Silky’, an Italian-born professional dancer who joins Don Chaku (of the first tale fame) in Mumbai. Her rise in the mafia and Bollywood is captured beautifully in this story. Using mozzarella cheese as a background, the story examines how pride comes before a fall. And its repercussions.
An enigmatic epilogue brings the beloved book to its too-soon end. By this time, the reader has been educated about how pizza, something so humble can be shaped into a mouthwatering delicacy by the stories of the ingredients adorning it.
All in all, the stories are engaging and they suck you into their world such subtlety, that before you know it, you are amongst them.
A highly recommended book! I would rate it five stars, not only for the prose and poetry but also for the artwork. Everything in this book is in-house and just like homegrown meals, it is food for the soul.
Please go and buy it NOW. Your taste buds will thank you for it!