Tuesday, 6 January 2009
A FINE BALANCE is the first Rohinton Mistry book that I read. Since then, I have read FAMILY MATTERS, another excellent book, and I will post a review on this shortly. I enjoy Mistry’s writing style and the subject matter of his books, although it can be quite depressing. In this instance, this story centres on the unlikely living arrangements of four characters that are forced by their strained economic circumstances to share an apartment.
Dina Dilal is a widow who has spent her life trying to escape her abusive and domineering brother, in a society where independent women are not the norm. The apartment represents her attempt to maintain her freedom, but she can ill afford the rent on her own. She is cajoled to take in a young fellow Parsi as a boarder, Maneck Kohlah, whose parents have sent him to the city to study. With her ailing eyesight getting worse and her independence slowly slipping from her, she then hires two Hindu tailors to sew for her; the arrangement equivalent to that of a sweat shop.
Despite their disparate backgrounds, the four live akin to a family, as they rely on each other in the face of financial hardship, personal troubles, and political turmoil. Their journey in life in laden with hardship and what finally happens to the four main characters in this book (and their friends/acquaintances in the story) is heart rendering. To say more would give the plot way.
So to find out what happens to Dina, Maneck and her tailors, I beseech you to read A FINE BALANCE. It is only fair to warn you that you may find this book too disturbing and heartbreaking. But then, to quote an Indian saying (or is it Meera Syal’s???), “Life is not all ha! ha! he! he!” (In other words, life is not always full of laughter and joy).