Monday, 3 October 2016

A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India.

The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

My Thoughts:

This is one book that is bound to leave a lot of readers teary-eyed. Though Rohinton, the author claims this work to be fiction, I wonder if this story was made up. You can still see thousands and thousands of Ishvars and Oms in every nook and corner of India. The book has everything that is impending the nation's development. It speaks about the deep rooted caste system and class differences. It speaks about blind urbanization and the resulting loss of nature and it's resources. It speaks about corruption. It speaks about politics. It speaks about population expansion. It even speaks about feminism. In general, this book IS India for you!

The story is about four  people who are forced to live together in a major city due to various circumstances. Ishvar and Om are untouchable cobblers turned tailors who have come to the city in search of a living. Dina Dalal, a middle aged widow hires them to work for a major Export company. She also rents one of her rooms in her apartment to her friend's son, Maneck, who has come unwillingly to the city from his home in the hills to pursue his education. Thus begins the extraordinary story of the four people and how life takes them on a harsh journey spanning poverty, illness, hunger, injustice, cruelty, prejudice, depression and misfortunes.

The story is grim - there is no getting around that fact. There is no happy ending. But everything is real. I wonder why this book did not win the Booker prize though it was shortlisted. This book is a gem. More people need to read this book. It helps to understand the ground reality prevailing in the country and also opens their eyes against their prejudices. The author has a knack of making a 600 odd page book feel like a breeze while you read. The author does not frustrate the readers by indulging in unnecessary narration or description, nor does he use complex words that render a dictionary indispensable. Instead he relies on his sharp wit and to-the-point narration to create a vivid picture and keep the readers glued to the book.

A MUST-READ book for everyone!

Golden Quotes:

"The human face has limited space. If you fill it with laughter there will be no room for crying."
"But nobody ever forgot anything, not really, though sometimes they pretended, when it suited them. Memories were permanent. Sorrowful ones remained sad even with the passing of time, yet happy ones could never be recreated - not with the same joy. Remembering bred its own peculiar sorrow. It seemed so unfair: that time should render both sadness and happiness into a source of pain."
"After all, our lives are but a sequence of accidents - a clanking chain of chance events. A string of choices, casual or deliberate, which add up to that one big calamity we call life." 

About the Author:

Rohinton Mistry

Rohinton Mistry is considered to be one of the foremost authors of Indian heritage writing in English. Residing in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Mistry belongs to the Parsi Zoroastrian religious minority.

Mistry’s first novel, Such a Long Journey (1991), brought him national and international recognition. Mistry’s subsequent novels have achieved the same level of recognition as his first. His second novel, A Fine Balance (1995), concerns four people from Bombay who struggle with family and work against the backdrop of the political unrest in India during the mid-1970s. The book won Canada’s Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. It was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and was a finalist for the Booker Prize.(Source: Goodreads)

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