This is the only book by Rohinton Mistry that I’ve read till date and it surely climbed up to my top three favorite books of all times slot. It is absolutely magnificent! I know, I know, you might have heard that this is quite the depressing novel and might even think that I am a sad, sad person. On the contrary, I am very positive but I don’t shy away from showing my love for melancholic novels.
A little sneak-peek into the story:
The story takes place in India in the year 1975, in an unnamed city, which is when the government announces a state of Emergency. This novel revolves around the lives of four characters. Dina, a Parsi widow, who is very spirited and is trying to live an independent life by managing a small tailoring business. Ishvar and his nephew Omprakash, tailors hired by Dina, who ran away from their village, where they were victims of caste discrimination and untouchability, and are now trying to make ends meet in the new city. Maneck, a student staying as a paying guest at Dina’s flat, who becomes a close friend to Omprakash. Their lives become intertwined with each other and they become companions trying to tackle life’s problems together.
Dina is a strong woman who does not want to become a liability for her brother after her husband’s death and she strives to live life on her own terms. I love her optimistic approach towards life and the fact that she never surrenders to her ill-fate. The lives of Ishvar and Omprakash had never been easy. They were victims of such brutality at the hands of the landowners of their village, that they lost every member of their family and had to flee overnight to stay alive. Trying to embrace the city life and make whatever little money they can by sewing clothes, they become very attached to Dina, who in return, becomes gradually affectionate towards them. Maneck had a happy childhood. He worked in his father’s shop as a child all through his teenage years. His parents wanted him to study further and thus send him off to the big city where he can pursue his education. After having a terrible experience at the hostel where he was staying initially, he moves in with Dina, who is his mother’s friend. All four of them are forced to live together and adjust in a small cramped apartment.
This story has such a compelling narrative that it is hard not to let the characters affect you. It certainly depicts real India brilliantly and the author has portrayed a vivid picture of the lives of all characters. There are moments when you feel overjoyed for the happiness they encounter but is short-lived and then feel truly sorry for the pain they endure. The subjects such as caste discrimination, untouchability and poverty are narrated with a realistic approach.
The narration does justice to all the characters, describing the tale of each person separately in intricate details, and then blending it to the moment they start living together. This is the first time I ever read about the era of Emergency and it is hauntingly intriguing. To put everything together in a 600 page book was not a cakewalk for the author, yet the blend of events and characters is nearly perfect. From the first page, I was hooked on to this book, although I was super-busy those days and had to stay awake late at night to finish the story.
You will either love this book or hate it. I know readers who loved it as much as I did and others who couldn’t get through it because they thought it was just too sad. Personally, I can not praise this book enough and would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read an emotionally overwhelming book and who can bear to read such a heart-breaking story. After finishing the book, I was left speechless and emotionally exhausted for almost two days and couldn’t get it out of my head, still can’t. I cannot promise you a happy ending with this one, but you wouldn’t want to miss this masterpiece!
Favorite Quotes from the book:
“…you have to use your failures as stepping stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair. In the end it’s all a question of balance.”
“If there was an abundance of misery in the world, there was also sufficient joy, yes – as long as one knew where to look for it.”
“…God is a giant quilt-maker. With an infinite variety of designs. And the quilt is grown so big and confusing, the pattern is impossible to see, the squares and diamonds and triangles don’t fit well together anymore, it’s all become meaningless. So He has abandoned it.”
(Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are strictly my own and in no way influenced.)