Over the weekend I finished reading a book called A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It is one of the best novels I have read for a long time as the characters are true to life and story line is emotional and gripping. The story revolves around 4 characters who happen to cross each other's life in Mumbai. The setting of the novel has "Emergency" as a background, i.e., between 1975 -77.
Dina Dalal, a young Parsi Widow is the central character in this novel. Ishvar Darji and Omprakash Darji, the tailors who come to Mumbai for a living and Maneck Kohlah, a student who comes to study refregiration engineering in Mumbai are the four characters whose lives gets interwined with each other over a period of time. What is very good about the novel is the characterization and his attention to details which makes the read very interesting. He has beautifully brought out the trials and tribulations of all the characters in a city like Mumbai and also the horror and the attrocities committed on ordinary human beings on account of emergency. Honestly, I have not read anything on emergency in detail and this novel gave me an opportunity to understand the high-handedness of the Government and the executive during the emergency. Mistry has a great skill in piecing together these characters as we move along and you also get to see the brutal caste driven oppression in the country. The book doesnt have much of twists and turns and it flows like one small river but the current is strong and you get dragged along!
It is quite a lengthy book with more than 600 pages to read but I never felt that. I always wanted to read on and on but has to cut short else on couple of times as I have to sacrifice my sleep otherwise.
I strongly recommend this novel and it is no surprise when you see that this has won many awards. This book was shortlisted for Bookers prize in 1996, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1996. A word of caution: though the book has been written very well it is definitely not a book which could read to relax and enjoy..it really stirs your soul and the underlining feeling is always grim except on very few occasions in all of 600 pages!! The novel, characters, the situations and the decisions taken by them still haunts me even after 3 days since I finished reading them. I guess it will fade away over a period of time but that is the true success of the novel, isnt?