A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Rohinton Mistry's "A Fine Balance" is a literary masterpiece that explores the lives of four individuals in India during the tumultuous times of the 1970s. The book is a poignant portrayal of how life can be both beautiful and tragic, and how the human spirit can endure even in the face of unimaginable adversity.
The story unfolds in four parts, each of which delves deep into the lives of the four main characters. The first part introduces us to Dina, a widowed seamstress who is struggling to make ends meet after her husband's death. She takes in two boarders, Maneck and Ishvar, who are both seeking a better life in the city. Ishvar and his nephew, Om, are from a lower caste and have fled their village due to the atrocities they faced at the hands of the upper caste. Maneck, on the other hand, is from a privileged background and is looking for a way to escape the suffocating influence of his parents.
Mistry's writing is both beautiful and heartbreaking. He has a way of drawing the reader into the lives of his characters, making us feel their pain and their joy. The book is a commentary on the social and political climate of India in the 1970s, but it is also a universal tale of love and loss, hope and despair.
The first part of "A Fine Balance" introduces us to Dina, Ishvar, Om, and Maneck. Dina is a widow who lives alone in her apartment in an unnamed city in India. She is a seamstress and is struggling to make ends meet after her husband's death. She decides to take in two boarders, Ishvar and Om, who are from a lower caste and have fled their village due to the atrocities they faced at the hands of the upper caste. Maneck, on the other hand, is from a privileged background and is looking for a way to escape the suffocating influence of his parents. The three boarders and Dina begin to form a makeshift family, but their happiness is short-lived.
The second part of "A Fine Balance" delves deeper into the lives of Ishvar and Om. We learn about the caste system, and how it has affected their lives. The caste system is a social hierarchy in India that divides people into different groups based on their birth. The upper castes are considered superior, while the lower castes are considered inferior. Ishvar and Om are from a lower caste and are forced to work as tailors. They are subjected to brutal treatment and abuse by their employers, who are from the upper caste. We also learn about the horrific events that led to their flight from the village, including the murder of their family members and the burning of their homes.
The third part of "A Fine Balance" explores Maneck's life, and how he is struggling to come to terms with his identity in a rapidly changing world. Maneck is from a privileged background and has lived a sheltered life. He is attending college in the city and is trying to break free from the expectations of his parents. He becomes friends with Ishvar and Om, and they introduce him to a new way of life. He begins to question the values of his upbringing and is forced to confront his own privilege and the injustices of the world.
The final part of "A Fine Balance" brings all the characters together, as they face the challenges of living in a country that is on the brink of social and political upheaval. The government has declared a state of emergency, and the country is in chaos. The characters are forced to confront their deepest fears and desires as they struggle to survive in a world that is rapidly changing around them. The book ends with a sense of hope, as the characters come together to face the future with courage and determination.
Overall, "A Fine Balance" is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it. It is a powerful exploration of the human spirit, and a testament to the resilience of the human soul in the face of adversity. Mistry's writing is both poetic and profound, and his characters are some of the most memorable in modern literature. If you are looking for a book that will challenge you, move you, and ultimately inspire you, then "A Fine Balance" is the book for you.