Thursday, 15 January 2009


I love reading but it can be a very expensive hobby as the price of books here in Australia isn’t cheap. Most books retail around $29.95 to $39.95, depending on the author and the size of the book. Not that I want to deprive the authors (more likely it is the publishers that get a bigger slice of the pie, or in this case, the book) from making a buck but the economist in me says that if you lower the price of a good, you would get more demand and in turn, actually increase your profits. Oh well, at least the high cost of first hand books has given birth to another business and hence contributed to the economy – that of second hand books.

This is where I come in. Half of the books that I purchase are second hand; but even then, I stick to the ‘VG’ standard. They have to be in pristine condition even before I consider a purchase. Creased edges, a no-no. Dog ears – definitely not! (in my opinion, people who make dog ears in books should be sent to book school – Book Care 101: What not to do to books and how to care for them. In other words, R-E-S-P-E-C-T books!).

The Author - Rohinton Mistry

Which brings me to my next book: FAMILY MATTERS by Rohinton Mistry. After reading Rohinton’s A FINE BALANCE, I was hooked. I have been looking for FAMILY MATTERS ever since and everywhere. I keep checking the book stores to see if the price has gone down but to no avail. Image my joy when I was up in Queensland (yes, I looked for books there too) and found this book. Unfortunately, it did not make the VG standard at all – not even by 50 per cent. But at this stage, I had almost given up hope of finding it and coupled by the seller’s comment of how good the book is, I relented and purchase it…..and I have not regretted the decision.

The story is about Nariman Vakeel, a Parsi and the elderly widowed patriarch of an extended family, who suffers from Parkinson's disease. He lives with his stepdaughter, Coomy and stepson, Jal, in a large flat in Mumbai (Bombay) in the 1990s. Coomy and Jal's half-sister (Nariman's biological daughter), Roxana - lives with her husband Yezad, and their two young sons, in a tiny two room flat, purchased by Nariman as Roxana's dowry.

Nariman marries Coomy and Jal’s mother for the sake of his family. He was in love with a Christian girl but the relationship was opposed by Nariman’s family and the Parsi community. They would rather Nariman marry a widow with two children rather than someone from outside the race. Coomy dislikes her step father, as she blames him for the death of her mother. As the story unfolds, the true nature of Nariman’s wife death becomes evident.

When Nariman breaks his ankle during his daily walk (which constantly receives Coomy’s chides), he is bed ridden and needs help for everything. Coomy resents this and hatches a plan to make her sister Roxanna take care of their father in her tiny flat. Jal is against the plan but is too afraid of Coomy to protest. What Coomy does to make her plan succeed is quite appalling – it shows the amount of hate Coomy has for her father.

So Nariman is ‘shipped’ to Roxanna house, much to Yezad’s chagrin. The family can barely make ends meet, much less having another mouth to feed and Nariman’s medical expenses to boot. However, living with his father-in-law in cramped quarters for several months, Yezad grows from a moody and uninvolved husband to a sweet and caring husband, father and son-in-law. Family values and elders are revered and ghosts are laid to rest in the Vakel family. But for how long? To find out what actually happens in this book, I implore you to read FAMILY MATTERS.

PS: Dilemma - I now need to find a good copy of FAMILY MATTERS, to take its pride in my ever bludgeoning bookcase! I can never win….. !

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