A novel by Rohinton Mistry
, depicting the lives of four individuals who come together in the most unusual of circumstances. Taking place in mid 1970's India
, the story describes life during the 'Emergency
' called by Indhira Ghandi
's government in order to stay in power after being found guilty of election fraud
The 'emergency' was a very dark time of India's modern history. Basic human rights were suspended, several journalists, union leaders, students, and innocent people were imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. This was also a time of the government's attempt to control the population by 'encouraging' birth control, which in effect, meant large scale forced sterilization, mainly among the poorer castes and classes. This was also a time of increasing religious violence.
The novel is extremely well written, and really brings about the sorrow and horror of that period of history. Many critics claim this to be 'The India Novel,' surpassing Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. This is very valid, for it is a book that adequately describes the triumph and tragedy that is India's history without becoming too surreal or strange.
One of the main characters is Dina Dalal, who is a Parsi woman who was raised by her overbearing and sinister brother, Nusswan. One major theme in the story is Dina's struggle to remain independent of her brother after the death of her husband. Another main character is Maneck, who is a student from the mountainous regions of India who comes to Bombay to attend school, and rents a room in Dina's apartment. Then there are the remaining main characters, Ishvar and his nephew Omprakash, who are two hardworking tailors from a small village who come to Bombay to work for Dina.
These individuals come together as a group that turns into a family that is full of hope and dreams. However, the circumstances they are in leads to obstacle after obstacle. There is a lot of commentary on the Caste System, government corruption, injustice, poverty, and generally about life. The novel is extremely depressing, but at the same time, extremely astonishing and well written. A must read from one of the most talented authors of our time to come from the Indian Subcontinent.