First things first, this is my first read of Rohinton Mistry and till date last as I am still not out of its deep impression.
When I begun reading this novel 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry, I must say it’s voluminous; I was put off at the onset. I thought, maybe it deals with some stereotype story of surrender or renunciation, family life or love or injustice. But, soon I felt it’s impossible to put it down without knowing what exactly is happening. Who these tailors are and who is Dina Dalal, why is she keen on taking in a tenant?
I completed the entire novel in a day, might have taken too many hours as while reading I felt like going back to certain paragraphs, incidents, and details time and again. Story is set in emergency times of Mumbai when almost every second was a challenge for the inhabitants of this huge city. The very existence and ownership of their life was in question. There were masters including landlords to rent collectors to beggar masters.
When I brought "A fine Balance" home, was too dicey whether it would be an interesting read or not. But, to my surprise the book overwhelmed me right from the beginning. It gripped my all attention and I ended up completing it in a single day. I simply had no idea what would be the next scene in the line. As in opening it, flipping through few pages, getting the feel, shut it, and return it back without having read even a single line. What a volume, it seemed to me, hell! I really was wondering whether to read it or not. It's been long I read such voluminous novel of some 600 pages.
Thankfully, I read it and have no regrets whatsoever. Rohinton Mistry for sure knows how to catch pulse of the readers. He has a genuine approach towards handling human emotions and connecting it with the social milieu people are in.
One starts living the whole experience narrated in the sheets of paper. Once over with reading you realize how much struggle it was for a common man to understand the changes whirling around him.
There is no one main character/protagonist in the novel. Entire novel circles around its four main protagonist including Dina Dalal, a widow eking her life alone, A college student (Maneck) messed up with his ambitions in big city, two tailors, uncle and nephew(Om & Ishwar) struggling through poverty. Mistry has traversed all the subjects in his story right from the government corruption, atrocities, poverty, life of a single woman, to human weaknesses.
My personal opinion to it is: May be Rohinton Mistry wants to say, “this is what life is; no bed of roses. You have equal share of every emotion.”
Under certain adverse circumstance we despise each other and there are also moments when we find solace in each other’s foolishness and kindness. This is how we humans are- a mere projection of momentary expression of swinging emotions.
He brought home the point that a common man has nothing to do with civil wars, political upheavals, and religious strikes. These all are the schemes of government to exercise its control and autonomy over the folks. Rightly put into words by Dina Dalal:
"Government problems - games played by people in power. It doesn't affect ordinary people like us."
Mistry has an art of characterization. He portrayed Dina Dalal, a strong woman, surviving in a big city, hiring tailors, beginning her own enterprise at such an age yet she had moments of weakness where her mind is clouded with fears unknown and doubts. The bonding between tailors and Dina flourishes later in the novel culminating into an everlasting friendship.
In those tough times of Emergency when every hope dwindled down to ashes and no effort of an ordinary prove to be of any help, compassion, love, kindness, and companion ship between few ordinary people still remained. This is the magnum opus of the human emotions and faith.
I would like to conclude this with my understanding of the novel which is
A fine balance- a balance, a dividing line in between hope and despair.
"What was there for anyone to laugh about in this wretched place?"