✯✯✯ Balance Between Independence And Interdependence

Friday, December 24, 2021 9:50:24 PM

Balance Between Independence And Interdependence



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Independence and Interdependence

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Who certifies B Corps? Are any B Corps publicly traded? What companies have the highest scores on the B Impact Assessment? How many Certified B Corps are there around the world? There are currently over 3, Certified B Corporations in more than 70 countries. How can organizations get involved beyond pursuing B Corp Certification? What is the difference between B Corporation and Benefit Corporation? B Corp is a certification. Benefit Corporation is a legal form. Government is part of the solution. View all 25 comments. Nov 26, Riku Sayuj rated it it was amazing Shelves: fast-tracked , favorites , india , lit-fic , r-r-rs , sociology-poverty , insti-crit , sociology-institutions , india-history , indian-fiction.

Take physic, pomp; Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel, That thou mayst shake the superflux to them And show the heavens more just. Where humans were concerned, the only emotion that made sense was wonder, at their ability to endure; and sorrow, for the hopelessness of it all. If one could read only one book about India, this would make a very good choice. On city, one village, one town, three families - this is the tight canvas in which Mistry paints, or rather, is the quilt that he weaves. As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, Mistry creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state, at once unsettling, pitiful, and maddening in its clarity.

Never dramatic, never superfluous, the details keep getting added to the quilt, no stray piece left untended, every discarded cloth-piece added and stitched in with exquisite care. Every anguish, spread across four generations, every tumult and gasp of a country is squeezed into the harrowing tales of a few poignantly realized figures. Indeed, the whole drama is almost Shakespearean in scope - with distinct echoes of King Lear in it - in the pride and distance of each character; in their imaginary walls, which crumple with closeness. For me, the comparison that kept forcing itself was with Shakespeare. As I mentioned above, I could hear distinct echoes of King Lear as I was reading this magnificent book. However, I was not sure if I was reading this into Mistry since I had just gone very deep into Lear in which I was reading too much of Plato , to be honest.

It thus turned out to be a very lucky coincidence that I read King Lear almost in parallel with Mistry. In any case, I now feel justified in elaborating on this theme - on the logic that a possibility of a King Lear influence having contributed to 'A Fine Balance' cannot be discounted. I tried to connect the abiding theme of love in both, trying to imagine Dina as an abandoned Cordelia. I tried to deconstruct and see if the intermixing story lines of Fine Balance serve the same function as in Lear, the two story lines, the two tragedies mixed into one, joining to form a single base line to the symphony, echoing and reaching the same notes - a ritornello , of sorts.

None of this worked satisfactorily. Eventually, my reconciliation is that Mistry has set his novel in an in-between place - between the lunacy of self-inflicting suffering and the self-wrought tragedy of the end, of Lear. Unlike the Shakespearean tragedy, where there is at least an apparent causation for the tragedies that befall each, the condition of the storm, of wild uncaring nature is the default here. All are equal in this world, the same storm lashes them all. Mistry also works in a lot of political criticism of the Indian political system.

Let us pick a phrase from Mistry to summarize this: A house with suicidal tendencies. The path seems inexorable. Once tyranny makes an entrance, it allows the government to become more and more authoritative, insensitive, even casual in how they treat human lives and dreams , without any real conscious intent - like the blind pagan gods of Shakespeare. Thus, maybe a step beyond nature then - as powerful, all-pervading and unreadable as the Gods themselves. It makes one wonder how unreasonably powerful our modern governments are - capable of reaching in and snuffing out even the minutest blooms of happiness, at random.

Where was the line between compassion and foolishness, kindness and weakness? And that was from her position. From theirs, it might be a line between mercy and cruelty, consideration and callousness. She could draw it on this side, but they might see it on that side. Emergency is an almost comical word, but it is poignant since, as Mistry shows, most stumble from one Emergency to the next, uncomprehending. Some may escape the blindness and see each other, but perhaps only in the minds of visionary authors.

All this parallels the distinct evolutionary trajectory of the characters in King Lear too, as the Kings and Nobles realize that underneath their garbs, the thin veneer of civilization, we are all equal. The Finely Balanced So we come back to this: Indeed, the whole drama is almost Shakespearean in scope - with distinct echoes of King Lear in it - in the pride and distance of each character; in their imaginary walls, which crumple with closeness.

The real fine balance, the real circus act , is the flimsily constructed wall that balances so finely between people, between families, between castes, between classes, between societies - but it cannot stand up to personal acquaintance. Which is why we use emotions of fear and disgust to prop it up. This wall, a mere figment of imagination, is made up of stories, fictional ones - the moment it encounters real stories, it tumbles down. Authors like Mistry are the modern equivalents of the quixotic hero, trying to crumple these walls, reaching across thousands of miles, through the pages of a book. Of course, we can see in figures like Nusswan those people who manage to keep the walls of fine balance erected throughout their lives - we see in them ourselves.

Can we dare to see ourselves in Nusswan? In a character like Maneck we can see someone who was perhaps lucky to escape childhood without erecting them. In the other poor souls who haunt the book, we see the ones on the other side of our well-tended walls. Then, in Dina we can see the ones who do break free of these finely balanced walls. And we might even aspire to their tragedy - so that we can be free of these walls too. That is the power of a work like this - it makes us crave even for tragedy, if only to let us escape our self-constructed prisons!

How powerful is that? View all 57 comments. Feb 15, Carol rated it it was amazing Shelves: chunkster , super-favorites , dark , historical-fiction , read , favorites , cultural-india. Definitely a five star read for me, but all of my emotions are shot to hell. Did a world like this really exist in 's India? Heaven forbid! With civil unrest and demonstrations against a corrupt government on the rise, our protagonists needlessly endure despicable injustices to both body and so OMGOSH! View all 50 comments. May 31, Kevin Ansbro rated it really liked it Shelves: human-emotions , immorality , wry-humour , indian-fiction , human-imagery , gentle-humour , morality , human-cruelty , indigenous.

Because it wasn't an unputdownable, hold-you-in-its-thrall page-turner, this novel took me weeks to finish. My only real issue was that I loved the writing WAY more than the actual story. I drooled over his penmanship and revelled in his wordplay. Like Rushdie and Shakespeare, he intermingles pathos with humour. Which is why it drops one star. View all 36 comments. Nov 05, Elyse Walters rated it it was amazing. There are a million things I loved about this book. I chewed and sipped slowly Our trunks are both thicker. Changes in nature can contribute to our health With the fires burning here in California I felt sadness for an older geezer ha, around my age , when Mr.

Kohlah watched helplessly as workers were asphalting his beloved birthplace in the mountains. Luxury hotels were not only changing the mountains - some people were happy about the business possibilities which is understandable , but my heart broke for how these buildings were changing one aging man. From environmental changes comes other changes We see how political and environmental change directly affects balance in our daily lives.

The concerns and frustrations showed up very personally. Dina Dalal, Ishvar, Om, and Maneck the 4 dominant characters , were each struggling with their own misfortunes, we fall achingly in love with them I remember the injustice —but this book gave me a deeper understanding as to why!!!! It also was heartbreaking sad!!! I was just trying to survive myself. This novel filled in many holes of understanding while also giving me the opportunity to tap into old memories. I became friends with a woman from Goa. Her hope and hopelessness. Character development This is the type of novel that you wish to have a table discussion with a group Mistry crafts his universe brilliantly View all 32 comments. Feb 17, Kris rated it it was amazing Shelves: fiction , , favorites , five-stars , india.

This is a compelling novel. Mistry focuses the story around the lives and interactions of four main characters, who cross paths in an unnamed city in India in during the State of Emergency. Mistry is unsparing in details of how difficult, even cruel, life is for these characters. Their opportunities are constrained by caste, gender, government corruption locally and across the country, and greed. In detailed flashbacks, Mistry describes the pasts of the characters with such humanity that it This is a compelling novel. In detailed flashbacks, Mistry describes the pasts of the characters with such humanity that it's impossible not to identify with them in some way.

This is a fast read, in part because of how beautifully drawn the characters are, and in part because you want to read on quickly to discover how the characters will handle the challenges life throws at them. It's a disturbing read as well, because Mistry provides clear descriptions of the violence, greed, and lack of compassion each character faces. At the same time, though, the novel is filled with countless examples of ways, large and small, that the man characters and others help each other, with the most generous sometimes being the characters with the least power and resources. In the end, I came away with the message that, even in the face of prejudice, greed, and hatred, people can survive hardships through loving ties with others.

View all 20 comments. A man with paralyzed legs lies on his itchy straw bed, staring at the murky ceiling that seems closing in on him, as his eyes have been fixating it for too long. The time seems reluctant to move on as there is no sign of movements around him; the world seems to have divorced him. His room has no windows that rewarded him with a view of a green patch or a shimmering rivulet to vouch for his existence. The life, as it seems, has no prospect, he thought. As the bleak moments ostensibly passed, he, A man with paralyzed legs lies on his itchy straw bed, staring at the murky ceiling that seems closing in on him, as his eyes have been fixating it for too long.

As the bleak moments ostensibly passed, he, to his surprise, spots a fly out of nowhere inching towards him. The sound of its vicious flutter of wings and its dull black mass has a portentous import, and, gazing at it, he gulps lumps of fear down his damp throat. As the fluttering, buzzing sound reaches an unacceptable proximity, he waves his arm, almost mechanically, in one vigorous movement, as though terrified by the ominous propinquity, and the fly, as though mocking at his frantic attempts at dissuasion, retreats a short distance only to come back as tenacious as ever. As the moments trudged past lazily, the buzzing sound now seems to be derisive laughter. The unflinching tenacity of the fly begins outriding his remnant resolve. He feels subjugated to the mettlesome fly.

He feels subdued. His arms, after repeated waving and sweeping, protested to move further. He truncates his efforts. He, like a hapless docile creature, accepts the defeat and the fly, with its flourish of invisible wings and triumphant buzzing, licked his skin as though making him know, out of pure derision, the tangibility of misery, failure, and cul-de-sac. The Fly of misery, which came almost always out of nowhere, kissed them mockingly, conquered them, and pushed them into dark abysses of lugubriousness, but only before they had put up a futile fight for stalling time prior to complete subjugation. And in the end, as Maneck Kohlah said, everything ended badly.

The fine balance that precariously maintained the social and cultural equilibrium had been mutilated causing uproarious fiascos. The gory period is still in an indelible mark as an epoch of calamity, instability and madness. A few words on caste system: To say in a few words, due to lack of time and space, the caste system in India has been like a series of concentric circles : the outermost circle being the most dominant class enjoyed unequivocal prerogatives, and the innermost circle being the socially oppressed and untouchables enjoyed almost nothing.

Though the caste system looks antiquated and draconian, it has been prevalent since time immemorial and is a by-product of years of cultural evolution. Main Review: First of all, let me start by saying that Mistry is a prolific writer. He concentrates on the substance and soul rather than the adornment of prose or metaphorical-diarrhea. That said, his prose is unvarnished, earthy and palpable. The story of four protagonists in the novel looks like an arbitrary selection, as if the author had been in a pursuit of finding a constant for the ever-befuddling equation of misery and despair among the common-place Indians during emergency.

The novel, as you read it, creates an impression that the story involving the four main protagonists is only a part of a very big story, or collection of stories, that is impossible to contain in a mere novel. But since the world is imperfect, we must put blinders on the senses. Dina Dalal, a hapless victim of a brutal quirk-of-fate, was deprived of her married life, which was cut off at an inchoate juncture. Being a widow, her chance for an independent survival was bleak, but a second marriage was impossible even to think of.

She had no one but her brother as a sole living-recourse. Epitomizing the virtues of boldness and optimism, and yearning to extricate herself from the sanctimonious, smothering clutches of her brother, she decided to earn for a living, she decided to sew. Her new life, now devoid of forlorn air and solitude, instilled a new found hope and joy in her. The tailoring machines became the beating-heart of her house, and the blood of joy and stability surged through every vein of her abode and being.

Presence of another living entity is indeed the most delectable thing after a dry spell of solitude and the accompanying pessimism. Then it struck her: the scent was unobtrusive now because it was the same for everyone. They were all eating the same food, drinking the same water. Sailing under the same flag. They were skilled tailors, but their heart and soul were anointed with the indelible ashes of their lugubrious past, making them flustered and tentative.

The timeless memories of their lost family, who were burnt alive by the diabolic upper-caste, were now the only green patch in the dry fields of their life. They wanted money to go back again to their village, to fixate their existence in their childhood abode, which now existed only as a mere dreamscape. The concomitant effects of emergency even threatened the serene mountains, as the family land and properties were swallowed by the inscrutable partitions, as the mountains were being destructed for the construction of roads and settlements, obviating their positivity and secureness.

He broodingly meditated upon the harrowing events and changes that constantly challenged his equilibrium. Sorrowful ones remained sad even with the passing of time, yet happy ones could never be recreated- not with the same joy. It seemed so unfair: that time should render both sadness and happiness into a source of pain. So what was the point of possessing memory? Embracing change becomes an obligation as long as we endure life. The lives of four people, from a blissful spell of optimism and joy, plunge into another phase of dreadful import. The unexpected turn of fate waylaid them and extorted from them the tiny bags of their cumulated happiness. Not every story has a happy ending. So he has abandoned it. And the expanse of novel is scattered with numerous gems of nostalgia-inducing details that makes you inadvertently smile.

The ground was soft, the mud sucking at their feet like a many-mouthed creature. In this pages book, the life and culture of India has been jotted down with a heart that beats along with the words. Being an Indian, Mistry had been able to empathize inordinately with the characters and accurately describe the singular environment that encapsulated the lives of the characters.

As the reading has been so life-like, I was immersed into the story, camouflaging my identity to the background of the 70s India, where I was one among them- the toiling, sweating proletarians; perplexed moms with hungry little mouths to feed; youths with despoiled ambitions and sprouted political inclinations; beggars and beggar- masters; Ishvar and Om and Maneck and Dina Dalal. And what changeable thing, too. Time is the twine to tie our lives into parcels of years and months. Or a rubber band stretched to suit our fancy. Or the lines in your face, stealing your youthful colour and your hair. But in the end, time is a noose around the neck, strangling slowly. View all 44 comments. May 30, Sara rated it it was amazing Shelves: borrowed-from-library , india , more-thanstars , historical-fiction , favorites.

This book is an exercise in emotional overload. I had to read it one section at a time, interspersed with breaks to digest and recover. Every moment in this book that is happy or positive is offset with ten sadnesses and cruelties that rip your breath from your body. The four main characters, Dina, Maneck, Ishvar and Om, are drawn with so much detail and clarity, that I felt by the end that I had traveled a road with them and knew them intimately. They are far from being the only characters to ha This book is an exercise in emotional overload. They are far from being the only characters to have that effect, however, the book is peppered with them. I do not think I will ever forget the beggar, Shankar, a man without legs or hands, who propels himself happily along on his wheeled board; or the Beggarmaster, an exploiter and yet a protector, who walks such a fine line that it is hard to determine whether he is a menace or a blessing; or Ashfar, a Muslim who takes two Hindi untouchables into his home and teaches them his trade, making them tailors.

When the story opens, India has already endured partition, splitting it into the Indian State and Pakistan: A foreigner drew a magic line on a map and called it the new border; it became a river of blood upon the earth. And the orchards, fields, factories, businesses, all on the wrong side of that line, vanished with a wave of the pale conjurer's wand. If even part of this novel is unexaggerated, this time was bloody, cruel, and unthinkable for the poorer people of India.

I can imagine it made British rule look like a picnic. What we see, through the lives of these four characters, is how the divisions of the past, the idea that one class of society is peopled with better human beings than another, keeps the people themselves in thrall and makes slaves of all but the wealthiest. There is no hope of bettering oneself, and most actually find their situation deteriorating instead of improving. One of the minor characters makes the statement , "You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping stones to success.

How can you use your failures as stepping stones if you are prohibited from ever succeeding at anything? As the book progresses, the hope is slowly drained away, like an old-timey bathtub plug that will allow seepage around its edges until all the water is gone. From the desire to find balance, we progress to, Where humans were concerned, the only emotion that made sense was wonder, at their ability to endure; and sorrow, for the hopelessness of it all. Mistry seems to tell us that we lose, and lose, and lose, until we finally lose our very selves into the void that has swallowed up everything before us. In fact, that is the central theme of my life story--loss.

Loss is essential. Loss is part and parcel of that necessary calamity called life. I wanted to scream at them, NO.. When I know that had I lived their stories, I would view my life the same way. This book is like a weight, it drags at your heart, it pulls at your understanding of what life is and what life should be, it sings, but the song is a dirge. There are moments of humor, moments of love, moments of joy, ah--and moments of great hope, but mostly there is a sense of injustice and human cruelty and desperation. I will be forever grateful to have read this novel. It has made an impact that I am certain to feel for some time, perhaps forever.

On the other hand, I am almost certain my heart could not bear to read it again. View all 47 comments. Mar 15, Stephen P who no longer can participate due to illness rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites. A book, along with two others which mysteriously appeared on my living room couch. My wife, equally at a loss had no idea where they came from. No one had been to the house previously, certainly not the dear family friend who just finished A Fine Balance and asked if I would read it.

Reluctantly taking a break from Walser and The Tanners, I began my page responsibility to a person who has always been there for us. The book's first four pages were partially folded from use, not to signify any A book, along with two others which mysteriously appeared on my living room couch. The book's first four pages were partially folded from use, not to signify any important passage or point. The remainder of the pages were white and crisp except for the occasional single letter or short word erased from use. It wasn't clear whether they were fading or attempting to emerge. No name of ownership or penned notes showed anywhere or any other sign the book hand been read in another's hands.

On a good day I can read thirty pages. Immediately the words vanished and one hundred pages were completed each day. Immersed in a foreign culture, India, , under the brutal reign of Prime Minister Indira Ghandi and her State of Emergency, the tortures of a caste system, the mass murders of a government discarding citizen rights and reaching for complete and lasting control, left me as fearful as the characters whose lives I lived.

The world of death and torture was hideous, the stench of relentless fear. Other manners of the denial of life emerged more silent yet still brutalizing the living of a life. In small villages in order to provide safety for oneself and one's family life had to be ordered according to one's station as provided within the unwritten sanctions of caste. Aspirations, dreams, uniqueness were sacrificed to live as one was expected to live by the citizen's of the town. The hope flourished that children would follow suite, marrying and having their children quietly dragging the yoke of this life, participating in the small happinesses of the allotted conventions. In the large and growing cities life also was abdicated by the grasp for power where no matter where it was found there was a higher power controlling it, or the striving for upper or middle class existence with its conformity, safety, accoutrements, and agreed upon cliche's which passed off the burden of hypocrisy, the breath-quickened unreasoned reason for the, "Necessary," flood of blood.

Precious life was taken, but also discarded by buckling to what others thought, the pronounced model of success, being, "Right," kneeling before the altar of arbitrary convention created to support the edifice of reigning power. The great vampire that sucked the blood out of life was, time. It devoured individuals. Families were crushed, their ways of life vanishing, then vanished. This is the work of the world, the passage of time lost opening to its precarious renewal in different forms. A tragedy in this story is that time passed but did not open onto a new time for the many that might provide a continuation or a new existence with further meanings. Many reached a dead end as did the repetitions of the changing of power in new vestments with old designs of clothing hidden beneath.

Yet, there was a woman who defied custom and went off to make a life on her own despite the expectations that she was chosen for success within the fence-lined beliefs of her village. It was always difficult, one obstacle after another, then another waiting in line to follow. She was not the customary hero, nor never sought that trophy. Her heroism was in being herself and trying to survive where odds said she could not.

This question hung in the air till near the end of the story, survival. Over time she found unexpectedly a familial love with the two tailors and a young border who lived with her in her small flat. Concern, giving, and caring sprung from people I never imagined could, would. The evil also carried hearts which could warm at times. Did she make the right choice? It could have been easier if she listened to the insistence of her brother and married at an early age, or marry at all. Tough, with all the difficulties she did live her life, patch-worked as it may have seemed to those doing what they were supposed-to-do. Those readers who love quiet heroes, this is a woman to adore, a story to adore, who can adore unexpected small gestures of kindness that flourish tender within bleakness.

This is beautiful and seamless writing that does not call attention to itself but gifted to the reader for the telling of this story. As I write I am understanding why when I finished and since, I have been emotionally wrought. I wanted to get back to reading Walser, a newspaper, listening to music, anything. This may be due to something personal within me and my identification with these characters and this story, or the literary accomplishment, or both. Although writing about it has now helped me to understand it there is still no resolution.

I sit here embroiled. The past tells me to allow it to rage within and not get in its way. In the end it will open up for me, as great books do, a life with a fuller meaning. View all 34 comments. This book was like a punch in the gut, or a hard kick to the balls. The kind where you double over dry heaving. That's how powerful it was. Mistry's novel traces the lives of four people over the period of about one year when they come together under one roof. That one year is also year one into Indira Ghandi's State of Emergency, declared after the Indian Supreme Court rules her election illegal. There are some excellent set peices. I won't repeat it here This book was like a punch in the gut, or a hard kick to the balls. I won't repeat it here, but recommend that you go read what she has to say.

My own personal favourite was the scene where the tailors, together with the inhabitants of their shantytown, are forcibly gathered by the police and bussed to a location where the "beloved" Indira Ghandi would be giving a speech. The ceremony, filled with much bowing and scraping by her political allies, ends with a helicopter flying past and throwing rose petals on the prime minister. The people pretty much ignore the entire ceremony, cheering only when told to do so.

They do, however, get some excitement when the helicopter's strong downdraft causes a large signboard cut out in the shape of Indira Ghandi to fall on the crowd below. Another hardhitting scene occurs several days later when the police and labour contractors come to round up the beggars and poor sleeping in the street. They have clearly been told by the Ghandi adminstration to clear the streets of the poor and give them jobs as part of a "beautification" project. What this means is that the poor are rounded up by force, beaten if necessary. When the contractor protests that he can't do anything with injured people, the police officer in charge replies, "Don't worry, my men know how to hit people without leaving visible marks.

The poor are, of course, forced into hard labour, their only pay being a meagre portion of food and shelter. Slavery, of course, by another name. Other atrocities follow: corrupt officials who carry out vascectomies on old men to meet their imposed quotas, the shantytown gets bulldozed to the ground. All of this brings brownie points to the officials for "doing their job", and a little extra money on the side as well. Mistry works a fine balance with these scenes: comedy and absurdity juxtopose neatly with the pathos and despair. In the end, however, I was hard pressed to give this book five stars. I'm docking it one star because the ending didn't work for me. The last third of the book sees the comedy and tragedy heighten to the point of melodrama, which was pitched at a level higher than I would have liked.

Perhaps I needed to read it straight through rather than over several weeks, so that the emotional impact would outweigh my difficulty in suspending disbelief. It's wholly subjective, of course, and I would certainly recommend this book as a good read. View all 6 comments. Jun 15, Rose rated it it was amazing Shelves: my-reviews , historical-fiction. One of my favourite books. I am happy to have my copy signed by Rohinton Mistry. This story takes us to the streets of Bombay in the 70's. A story that intertwines the life of four people during a time of political unrest. It casts a very descriptive view of life in India at that time.

View all 12 comments. Sep 04, Jaidee rated it liked it Shelves: three-stars-books. I know this is a good book and that Mr. Mistry is an excellent writer. The use of language is mostly elegant, vivid and the stories interweave in a logical and natural way. There was not a dull moment to be had in this sprawling saga set in s India. The characters were likable and their struggles are real, heart-wrenching and horrendous. I have a HUGE issue though with the presentation of the characters' emotional and psychological lives. Although 3 "tragedy diminished by histrionics" stars!! Although at times Mr. Mistry got the emotional timbre "bang on" especially in the very moving epilogue , more often the very sad and tragic events were shrouded not only with histrionic melodrama but often really tasteless slapstick that jarred the senses and I was left feeling "are they going to start in on Bollywood singing and dancing?!?

For me though, this book was a good read tinged with disappointment. This was an excellent story covered in a too brightly colored cloth that was then wrapped with cheap gaudy gold ribbon that was then placed in a too bright metallic basket. Too much bloody glare to really appreciate the true gems that lay underneath!!! Dec 27, Nidhi Singh rated it it was amazing Shelves: , favorites , india. This was life? Or a cruel joke? He no longer believed that the scales would ever balance fairly. If his pan was not empty, if there was some little sustenance in it for his days and nights, it was enough for him. This is one book that made me want to clutch the life I live, as some blanket of security, and hide within.

I have never known what it is to live with such constant uncertainty. That one could be completely uprooted today, the next day, or any day. Each day of struggle, each day of This was life? Each day of struggle, each day of building the hopes for a future which comes undone with the incessant tugs and pulls of life. With my fictional foray, maybe I lived a little of what Om, Ishvar, and Dina lived. Maybe I traced a part of the space they made for themselves. Maybe I felt a bit of what they did. Breathing, fighting, heaving through life. When one has to collect the scraps of it, weave each day of it, like the patches of the quilt Dina sews. It never seems as bleak to them as it does to me. I can sense the foreboding, the unalterable doom before they can. That it is all so hopeless.

But who could have the heart to say it. They are never tired of it; tired of life no matter how much life tires them out. Where humans are concerned, the only emotion that made sense was wonder, at their ability to endure I had never thought so much about the worth of human life. How much it is and how little it is. I could figure their histories buried in the casualties of the Emergency: forced sterilization, governmental brutality, upper caste atrocities. Men and women, hoarded together, in the slums, in the irrigation camps, on the pavements.

There are explicit bodily details, of the infestations, the stench, the odor. The intricate descriptions of the physicality of life, so organism like, which breathes and lives as long as it is permitted to, as long as it is of service. With the barest detail of humanity stripped of love, of kindness, of dignity. In a sense, it is the disposability of human lives. You see, we cannot draw lines and compartments and refuse to budge beyond them. Between hope and despair, are mostly their quiet dreams, the claim to the future of their liking. To have something of their own in the world, their own space, their family, their children, the success they always wanted, the long-awaited return to their land, the ache for their loved ones, the pride of their community.

Then there is the anger; silent and smothered, but it lives. It would strike back only to inflict destruction on oneself. But it needs to be seen and acknowledged and avenged. I felt such helplessness, embarrassment, anger with myself and everything. While I can never stop asking more from this life, they have been denied the very least. Everything about this book made me look towards something I long believed or pretended to be invisible. If there was an abundance of misery in the world, there was also sufficient joy, yes - as long as one knew where to look for it. And there is beauty in the squalor, hope in hopelessness, strongest bonds formed across insurmountable boundaries. There is an affirmation of life, but not in how everything turns out to be right in the end, how all the good balances the bad.

Maybe it lies in the trust and recognition we place in each other. The close family that is formed among complete strangers. Something that Dina, Ishvar, Maneck, and Om built up for themselves. That moment in time would always belong to them, no matter what turn life takes, or how it all concludes in the end. Yet, it is not these lives and faces—harrowed, hungry, and hopeful, spilling along the pavements—that feature in the stories this city is known for: a lot is said about its secretive skyscrapers, while its struggling masses remain overlooked, left to fend for themselves. It is lives such as these that Mistry brings into focus with A Fine Balance. The plot is centered around the lives of Dina Dalal, a middle-aged Parsi widow from the city; Maneck Kohlah, a lonely student from the mountains; and two tailors, Om and Ishvar Darji, who hail from a faraway village; as they are thrown together into the melting pot by hardship and necessity.

It is through the patchwork of their lives entwining as in a quilt that the reader is made familiar with the wider political reality of India—a reality riddled with caste-violence, poverty, exploitation, and corruption—against the immediate background of the National Emergency of , a period infamous for making political prisoners out of an entire nation. The personal is political, as the suffering of each character—from the protagonists to the beggars, rent-collectors and others who populate the fringes of the narrative—makes evident, touched as it is by the arm of law in alarming but commonplace ways Re-reading this book in , I also realised how similar India under the dissimilar governments led by Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi respectively happens to be: the opposition is quashed, the media is censored and partisan, and the laws are changed clandestinely—we are, after all, living today in a state of undeclared emergency.

It says somewhere in this book that the lives of the poor are rich in symbols, and symbols indeed abound throughout the narrative. The chess-set that Maneck receives from his friend, Avinash, too has similar metaphorical bearings. This is one of those books that will plunge you into a state of anguish and contemplation for days; a tragedy that does not end with the last page. But read, anyway. For as the epigraph by Balzac says, "this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true''. View all 14 comments. Oct 21, Margitte rated it it was amazing Shelves: drama , historical-fiction , family-sagas , reviewed , read , food , india.

The Great emergency. Martial Law. Murder-on-instinct; survival of the fittest. The old, disabled, the poor - fair game. Political mayhem. Family Planning Program going as insane as the population explosion. Riots, violence, families destroyed. A Beautification Program chasing people with bulldozers like unwanted sewerage down the isles of perfection. Their lives worth less than the holy cows meandering the trash heaps and destitution of the destruction everywhere.

Despair in Despair in abundance. Hope in short supply. A fine balance as futuristic as the abolishment of the caste system. Amidst it all, the two tailors Ishvar Darji, his nephew Omprakash, and the young widow, Dina Dalal, tried to survive and prosper. For an extra income she took in her friend's son, Maneck and together these four people became the axle around which numerous lives and events played themselves out. A beautifully written story of hard-break and hardship on an unimaginable scale. A masterpiece in the historical fiction genre.

An excellent companion for this book is 'A Suitable Boy' by Vikram Seth to widen the perspective on what was, and still is, happening in India. View all 21 comments. As I scramble for words to speak of this book and even manage to get hold of some. I wait till they fall from my tongue into the depths of infinite hopelessness. And someday, I hope these words will find me again. These words, these thoughts will help me accept the despair that is this thing called life. View all 18 comments. Sep 01, Algernon Darth Anyan rated it it was amazing Shelves: Let me tell you a secret: there is no such thing as an uninteresting life. While the politicians are playing their high stakes games, it is the simple people w Let me tell you a secret: there is no such thing as an uninteresting life.

While the politicians are playing their high stakes games, it is the simple people who suffer the consequences and must deal with widespread corruption, crippling poverty, sectarian violence, old social taboos that are deeply entrenched in the fabric of the country. Dina Dalal, affectionately called Aunty by her flatmates, is a widow from a relatively rich Parsi family in Mumbai, who lives in a much desired controlled rent apartment. Unable to make ends meet without asking for help from her obfuscating brother, she decides to start a small an illegal sewing business in the flat and to take a sub-renter in the spare room.

This is how Dina Aunty comes to live together with the son of one of her old school friends, Maneck, and with two out-of-work tailors from a small village, Ishvar and nephew Omprakash. As we follow these four characters, the world around them is filled with stories: background stories for each of them and stories of the people they meet and interact with. Everything happens to you only. Each time you come here, you have a new adventure story to entertain us. Political militancy is deftly weaved by the author with deeply touching human interest stories, with dignity and generosity to be found in the most desolate places.

When a door closes, sometimes a windows open, like the times when the apartment owner tries to evict the four, and they are rescued by a kingpin of the Mumbai underworld, a Beggarmaster that has his own tragic tale to live through. Yet, despite the urgings of a passing acquaintance in a train compartment to find a point of balance in life, the people are ultimately too small and the pressure too great for them to build their own sanctuary within a world that is going mad around them.

In what is probably the most beautiful metaphor in the novel, Dina Aunty is making a quilt from the multi-coloured patches of fabric that are left over from her sewing business. This tragic element is probably what struck me the strongest in this second novel by Mistry that I read. Here, as other reviewers noticed already, we can reference Shakespeare at his bleakest and Dickens at his most moving pleas for social reform. Vasantrao Valmik, the recurring witness character, is probably the most Dickensian of the lot, and oddball pen-lover and word-pusher that somehow maintains his equanimity and falls on his feet even as the others around him are pulled under.

He is the one responsible for the title of the novel, in a repartee he has with Maneck : You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Valmik has another one, that may sound more cynical, but I believe reflects better the situation in India in After all, our lives are but a sequence of accidents — a clanking chain of chance events. But what can you do? Hope is the one thing you cannot give up, no matter how far down you fall.

Some sort of balance must still be found. View all 16 comments. Mar 05, Kelli Oliver George rated it really liked it. This book covers the stories of four characters living in India during the mids during a time in which Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declares a State of Emergency and in its name, countless human rights violations were committed. I am not sure I can say much that would do this book proper justice. It certainly had what I refer to as The Linger Factor. After I finished it, I sat thinking about it for awhile. When I woke up at WOW. When I woke up at 5 am and couldn't get back to sleep, I thought about it some more.

Then later, while I was doing my hair and makeup, I pondered even more points, turn of events and the title which had so much meaning. This book was not an easy read. The author delves into deep detail on each of the main characters back stories. It was tough going because these people did not live happy lives. However, it was important to the overall theme of the book that you truly get inside each of the characters heads so that you fully understand the reasoning and the extent of their actions and choices. To not give the full history on each of them would have made some of the events appear to be melodramatic and it would have been all too easy to paint certain characters as selfish or even villainous in their choices.

Instead, it was heartbreaking, because you understood and could feel the humanity of these characters. You knew them and your heart sank and soared with each various plot point. As in life, nothing was black and white with this book. Again with the "wow". View all 4 comments. Jul 16, notgettingenough rated it it was amazing Shelves: modern-lit , indian. Maybe this review, about exploitation as much as anything, should have stayed on this site I am told some sort of word minimum is necessary on this site. In order to conform

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