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Three times nominated for Booker Prize, A Fine Balance written by Rohinton Mistry  is set in India from 1940’s till early 1980’s. It was the time from when the country got independence to  declaration of the State Emergency.and when it was struggling with issues of untouchability, casteism, corruption (which still prevail in a more sophisticated manner!!)

It’s a heart wrenching story filled with oceans of sorrows and droplets of joys. Author has build a good well-knitted plot and the characterization is brilliant. The way it proceeds, reader can feel the plight of the characters. It’s all about how the lives of Dina Dalal (Parsi widow), Ishvar and Om Prakash ( uncle and nephew cobblers turned into tailors trying to make out a decent living) and Maneck ( young Parsi boy) are intertwined when they go through lot of good, bad and ugly things together in one year they live with each other. Author has given ample details about the different background of these characters which is why the storyline is so strong and justifies the reason behind their decisions and choices.

It becomes a bit dreary at times as the main characters go through a lot of atrocities which seem to be endless and limitless. On one side where people are treated as animals by corrupt politicians, upper caste and police, there are people who go out of the way to help others.  Generosity of Dina Dalal towards the poor tailors in giving them a refuge in her small battered house verandah inspite of threat of being homeless herself is heart warming. Similarly, a muslim helping two cobbler boys  become tailors and the boys in turn saving the Muslim family during communal riots is one of the many things that keep the reader’s faith restored in good things.

Is a long book (600 pages) but never boring. There are some funny characters like RajaRam who is a ‘hair-collector’ and sells people’s hair for a living. There is a BeggarMaster who has an army of beggars, which sounds disgusting for a profession but he does have a heart too and loves his beggars dearly in his own way.

So many contradictions and shades of human sentiments will make your heart heavy with emotions and compassion. “All is well that ends well” does not hold true for this story as it ends with the same sadness which the reader witnesses throughout. It’s disheartening to see that people’s dreams, hopes and honest ways are shattered brutally all along however hard they try. But it’s a relief to see that lot of characters go through transformation at various stages in their lives and do some good deeds as well. With a strong narration, this one is worth a read and one of the books about which you will keep on thinking long after reading it.

“You cannot draw lines and compartments and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair”

― Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance

 

“The human face has limited space. If you fill it with laughter there will be no room for crying.”

― Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance

 

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