Turning the last pages of ‘Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry, i realized once again what a moving story and brilliant characterization can achieve.. The story revolves around a gamut of characters set in ‘Emergency India’. Not only does it shatter various myths regarding the most important post Independence event but also brings the reader face to face with the stark reality of the nation that is India.
The author has been successful in converting the banalities of life into something worth considering. 21st century readers would be jolted out of their reveries when they are made to confront the naked reality of caste excesses in rural India, the police and government tamasha in the country, the Goondaraaj, the misuse of law & power, the corruption which is rampant at every level.. one might feel “what is new here? we have seen and experienced all that..”
Enters the magic of the author.. The simplicity, with which he has spun the characters around all these threads to weave out a heady yarn, is breath taking. One keeps waiting for pleasant tidings but the author’s warning of a tragic ending at the beginning of the novel is to be taken seriously.
We are used to our stories being the tales of strong men who face all adversities and come out victorious at the end. Everyone lived happily ever after is supposed to be our favorite punch line.. The author means to differ.. His characters are strong men and women who are tossed, turned, tried, tested and finally broken by life. Happiness, if any, is short lived but enough for the readers and the characters to hang on to and crave for more.
The contrast of the life and death of a college student with the two low caste chamars turned tailors hits you between the eyes. The former leads a comparatively cocooned life. His troubles are more a misunderstanding of the younger generation with their parents. The unfortunate tailors, on the other hand, have been dealt a raw deal by fate..loss is their middle name. Yet the strength of their characters makes one believe in life and its struggles. The only disappointing turn in the story is when the college student, in a daze of helplessness and loss, commits suicide. Some would support his decision..but that’s just putting an end to his own misery without a thought for others who loved him. My heart went out to the the tailors who had preferred to live rather than give in..
To be truthful, the novel made me thank God for the easy and comfortable life that He has bestowed on me.. it made me realize the importance of inner strength and balance of mind and soul..
The characters in the novel keep repeating that ‘everything ends badly’ but it doesn’t have to..always..
The book struck a chord deep inside.. a melancholy tune reverberated the innards of my heavy heart..