Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Balance or Imbalance

There are certain times during which certain books should never be read. Actually, I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to read these books. May be you should read them when you’re totally exhilarated and you need something – a jolt to bring you back to earth. Yes. There are the sad ones, the depressing ones and the ones that reek of despair – ‘A Fine Balance’ is the latter. To straighten out things – it’s a bloody good book, an enthralling one at that and Mistry is a master storyteller; but then that’s exactly why I picked the book up in the first place.

I read it; read it through breakfast; every evening after a long day at work; every night till my eyes gave way to the brutal force of sleep; read it through the weekend trip on the bus as long as the light permitted me to; even snatched a few minutes in the loo, at the parlor and while waiting. All the while, I was reading just to get a glimpse, no – a shimmer, that vaguely resounded of hope and something nice to come. Rohinton Mistry offered none; not at the beginning and definitely not at the end.

Poverty is worse than a disease. Because it never dies with the individual; it spreads across generations. If Rohinton was just talking about the misery of poverty, it would have still kept me sane. But his cauldron has more in it – the absurdity of political injunctions, the grotesque display of the narrow mindedness of the rich, the mutilation of justice, the widespread corruption and twisted providence – the final straw. Every time you convince yourself that things cannot get worse than this for the protagonists; that their Karma Grand Total is well above the minimum mark, he does it all over again; pushes them further and further into desolation till in the end they are far, far worse than they seemingly started off as. A Fine Balance is full of imbalances.

With all the traveling over the past month, I had kept aside Dostoevsky for a while thinking I’ll read something lighter and get back to him. My pick couldn’t have been worse. I definitely wish I had read one of Mistry’s happy ending books (if he’s ever written one) before picking this one up. Now I’m at cross roads; I definitely love his style and after a long time here’s an Indian author I feel like I could be so obsessed with, as I was once with Salman Rushdie. But the truth is I’m not that enterprising and I don’t want to go by that road again – not any time soon.

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