Tuesday, May 16, 2006
A Fine Balance
Rohinton Mistry, (though personally, i'd prefer calling him Rohinton MISERY), came out with his much acclaimed second novel, A fine balance, in 1995.. it was very highly acclaimed and praised by the time magazinre, new york times, wall street journal, the guardian and any other famous reviewer in sight in the US! Rohinton was brought up in bombay and his novel revolved around india..
ever since i crossed the seven seas and came over to the new land, i have had an inscrutable urge to bond with anything even vaguely indian and to an extent asian.. it somehow links me to home and i derive satisfaction from it.. my reading has also followed the same trend...mills and boon, robin cook, sidney sheldon, wilbur smith, jeffrey archer etc have been replaced by bharati mukherjee, naipaul, r.k.narayan and chinese novelists like amy tan and jung chang...anything to give me a feel of home..:)along the same lies, i picked up the much raved about novel - a fine balance.. with absolutely no itroduction to it whatsoever, i had absolutely no idea what i was getting myself into.. really..
the book is completely indian.. in fact, when reading it, i've even had the funny sensation of being able to smell the oil dripping vada described in the novel! you're transported totally to the streets of india..
the beggars on the streets, the crowded trains and the inane conversation happening between randoms, desperate attempts at making "fresh" conversation in hot and sweltry chennai buses and mumbai trains.. well, its all so familiar.. the hawkers in the station, the irresponsible police, the crowded streets, the dirt on the road, the hawkers, politics talk, over-friendly aunties!! - havent we seen them all?? we have! and the book is full of such descriptions.. descriptions that make you yearn for home.. i thought i only missed my family, my friends, the places i studied in, the coffee places we hung out in, the theatres we watched movies in etc etc.. but while reading this novel..i realised that i was missing more than that! i was missing the road side pani puri stalls, i was missing the "sundal" in the beach, i miss having beggars haunt us all the time.. i miss fighting tooth and nail with chennai auto drivers for 5 rupees.. i really miss all that!!
well, i can go on and on about the stuff the book made me miss.. it does seem like a beautiful book right?? but, it actually wasn't.. it turned out to be rather depressing and pessimistic.. when i finished reading the novel, my first reaction was to hate it.. i've always liked the "and they lived happily ever after" endings and the way this novel ended was a rude shock.. and in many ways, i thought he was portraying the wrong india to the people here..a complete novel about the miserable life of beggars in india, the poverty, the unhygeinic conditions, the politicl plays.. it seemed so unfair that he was portraying just just side of india to the americans..
but as time passed, i began to appreciate the book more.. it was an honest portrayal..nothing was falsified.. it was a true depiction of the poor india.. a true depiction of the lives led by soo many indians.. when in india, just closing my eyes would make me forget that though there were barristas, mcdonalds, pizza huts, subways etc etc, there was a major part below the poverty line.. and this book hit me with reality.. made me realise what i've been pushing out of my brain.
it feels like you are in a dark tunnel and somehow you know there's light at the other end..its right there..you can just almost see it..its dark now and you know somehow that everything is going to be alright..and then suddenly, the tunnel ends..there is no light at the other end..its been closed..there is no exit..its just darkness.................
thats no fair you might say.. unfortunately, life doesnt always necessarily become better for everyone..
its a gripping tale and a book so honest is hard to come by..