I have just finished reading 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry and though not the one to do book reviews I find it impossible to not talk about this book. At 600 odd pages the book might seem like an onerous read but it is not. Once you start reading you never know how time flies but only revel in how wonderfully the writer etches out the lives of each of the four characters and seamlessly integrates them to give us a masterpiece of a book.
The book is set in 1975 Indira Gandhi’s regime at the time of the emergency and is set in an “unnamed place by the sea” and it takes you little time to figure out that the author is talking about Bombay. And it talks about the lives of four people (two tailors, a widow and a student) who are innocent victims of the emergency, and how they co-exist under the same roof. Mistry defines the lives and background of each of the four characters beautifully and spends a lot of time building up the plot. By the time the book ends you don’t complain about the size of the book but wish there was more to read.
This is one book which can make you sit up and think. There are many parts in the book where you will go “Chiiii, disgusting!!” and you will try flipping pages to reach a good part and ignore the bad part when a small voice inside you will tell you that however disgusting it is and how much ever you try to ignore it, it is true and your not reading it wont change it. You realize that though the characters are fictitious their lives and stories are those of real people.
It portrays India in its rawest form, telling us about its villages, telling us horrific stories about how the lower castes were/are oppressed by the upper castes, telling us about the unscrupulous politicians, corrupt police officers, life in the chawls of Bombay. I could just keep going on. Mistry is such a wonderful storyteller that at many points in the book you find yourself almost pleading Mistry to make the protagonists have a happy life. The book is painful, depressing, sad, thought provoking and is bloody brilliant.
There is a particular line in the book where the widow asks someone if she should inform the police, which will always stay with me.
This is the conversation between them.
“Should I make a complaint to the police” asked Dina.
He gave her a weary look. “If you like. But you might as well complain to that crow on the window.” The bird cawed and flew away, he felt vindicated.
The sarcasm, light humor and irony of the line hits you right on the face
After shantaram this is one book which I badly wanted to write a review about. After kite runner this is one book which has made me cry, after thousand splendid suns this is one book which has made me empathize with the characters and after a long long time a book has made me sit up three nights in a row to complete it and I don’t regret it.
Do NOT pick this book up if you are looking for some light reading because this book will make you brood and think and give u sleepless nights, making your question your own insensitivity and blissful ignorance to so many crying issues in this country. This book gives you the raw truth the way no other book does.
Waiting to read Family Matters by Mistry