I want to make a confession. Last Man In Tower is by far one of the best books I have read by an Indian author. The fact that I can personally relate to the theme of the book has of course made this book a prized treasure.
The book addresses the phenomenon of redevelopment projects that took Mumbai by storm some years ago and till date it is not uncommon to see the reconstruction of old, dilapidated buildings in the city. New buildings, modern facilities, appreciation of property value – What’s not to like? You ask. As we all know, with change comes uncertainty and when that change threatens to encroach upon our home, our very own personal haven, it is bound to create resistance which can take many forms and often lead to harmful consequences to those harbouring this state of mind.
In ‘Last Man in Tower’, Adiga effectively narrates the journey that individuals go through when faced with a redevelopment project of their own home. As is common knowledge, the most popular means of housing in Mumbai is within buildings or apartments. Therefore, redevelopment will rarely be of one single flat but of the whole building. Consequently, dealing with a group of people and the associated dynamics is inevitable. Negotiation, politics, greed, emotional blackmail, consensus building; Name it and you can identify some form or other of human dynamics in this surge of transition and the process that leads to it.
So who is this Last Man in Tower? When property developer Dharmen Shah approaches the residents of Tower A, Vishram Society with what looks like a generous offer of redevelopment, the residents of course have varying responses. After much negotiation and cajoling, all except one resident is amenable to this grand master plan. He is Masterji, a retired school teacher and one of Vishram’s most humble and respected residents. Although the story focuses on whether or not Masterji will finally surrender to this offer of redevelopment it also explores the circumstances of the various other residents of Vishram. It sheds light on the camaraderie among neighbours and at the same time demonstrates how in the time of change and uncertainty trust becomes such a delicate matter.
Adiga through his writing, helps you visualise quite easily the setting of Vishram society and the characteristics of its various residents. You can understand their thought processes and also feel the emotions they experience at key stages in the story.
As you would have already guessed, I can go on and on about this book and I strongly believe that no amount of words will do justice to it. It’s no wonder then that ‘Last Man in Tower’ has bagged the Man Booker Prize in 2008. Take a bow Aravind Adiga, we need more writers like you to stimulate our minds today.