A Fine Balance: Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance is the second novel by Rohinton Mistry, a Bombay-born writer now residing near Toronto, Canada. This novel revolves around the four ill-fated characters caught in the vortex of events recounting during the emergency imposed in India by Indira Gandhi in 1975.

These characters are:

Ishvar Darji and Omprakash Darji (uncle-nephew) who hail from an impecunious Indian village, these poor tailors struggle in the unnamed city by the sea
Dina Dalal who a widow from middle class Parsi family
Maneck Kohlah who is a Parsi teenager from a mountainous village in northern India.

The novel captures the sufferings of these 4 central characters who try to survive the “State of Emergency”.

Overall its an amazing novel to read, if you like the “serious” kind of novels. But in between somewhere, while roy describes the character of Maneck, the story starts becoming bore! So, actually you just feel like skipping this part of the book or may be the stories of the other 3 characters are so strong that you just want to go back to them as soon as possible.

The only thing I dint like about this novel is its very depressing! Everything ends badly with all the protagonists! Believe me, it took me a while to forget all the pain these characters must have gone through! A great touching story! Worth reading, no doubt if you don’t mind reading something terribly depressing!

It is really not possible to give you guys a narration of the whole book because it’s a huge huge book of more than 600 pages But yes, I will brief down some of the most depressing things:

Diana’s character: Nusswan, Diana’s brother was abusive to her after her father’s death. He made her do all the housework, forcing her to do all the cooking, cleaning, and drop out of school, hitting her when she misbehaved, and once making her tape the hair she cut off back to her head after she did it without his permission... Finally when Diana somehow finds a nice and loving husband, he dies after 3 years of happy married life

The chapters which deal with the struggle of Ishvar’s father in the superstitious and tradition bound village are very emotional, hence terrific. Dukhi’s hut is put on fire by high caste people killing all the family members except Ishvar and Om.

The chapters which deal with the hindu-muslim communal war are also very emotional.

When Om finally agrees to get married, the two tailors go on board to search for a suitable bride. But the situation in which they get caught was something so so terrible! They are forced to undergo sterilization spearheaded. As if it was not enough, Ishvar’s legs have to be mutilated whereas Om is castrated. In the very beginning of their work with Dina, both of them are arrested and taken to a rally to attend prime minister’s speech.

When Maneck returns from Dubai after working for 8 years in the end of the book, he encounters a country ravaged by communal violence whereby his Sikh cab driver has to shave his head and beard fearing the backlash.

In the end, the 2 tailors ended up being beggers! And Diana had to return to her brother’s home as she was thrown out of her flat by her landlord!

I want to really mention here that there have been moments while reading the book when I was completely shaken and had to actually take a break from continuing to read it further!

The descriptions of different incidents in the novel are brilliant, the dialogues sharp and the narrative well constructed.
It is no hyperbole to say that Mistry is a master storyteller. I am a big fan of him. Have read all his novels and all of them are so brilliantly written. Will try to give the reviews about all of them.

This novel was the finalist for a Booker Prize. Definitely a must read for people who love reading!


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