Author – Rohinton Mistry
Publishers – Faber & Faber
THE fuss that Aditya Thackeray raised over the supposedly insulting lines about the Shiv Sena in Rohinton Mistry’s novel seems silly if you’ve read the book. After all, the book is far more critical of the Congress and one of that party’s holy cows, Indira Gandhi, than it is of the Sena. There’s just one passage in the book where one of the characters dismisses the Shiv Sena as ‘goons’. But then, perhaps that was the problem for young Mr Thackeray. Born and bred in a family that feeds on the hubris generated by the adoration of a few brown-nosers, the young heir, could not digest the fact that anyone could give the Congress more importance. Of course, I may be stretching this too far – but really, I don’t see what the fuss was about.
I also don’t think this is as fine a novel as people make it out to be. It’s purely a personal feeling – and you’re free to feel offended as you read this – I don’t think Mistry is quite as accomplished as most people make him out to be. He’s a great narrator, he draws intricate and engaging plots and fleshes out his characters, but he lacks a certain je ne sais quois which separates the great from the merely competent.
But I did enjoy the book while it lasted. It’s very imformative about a certain period in Mumbai, and India’s, history and a wonderful insight into the life of the Parsi community. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t completely feel for the characters and their losses. In parts, the verboseness really bogged the prose down; for instance, I found myself speed-reading through the portion in the Chor Bazar where Gustad Noble reminisces about his family. And frankly, I didn’t think much of the sub-plot involving Major Jimmy Bilimoria. It was too far-fetched and contrived for my taste. In fact, I much prefer the way Mistry dealt with the Congress and Indira Gandhi in A Fine Balance. There was a sense of humour in that book, which is lacking here.