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A Fine Balance- Rohinton Mistry :40/52

Nothing fine or balanced here. Nothing.

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This book should have been called Such a Long Journey.  A long uphill journey where every step those four people take upwards, they are dragged two steps down.

As crazy as it sounds, The Emergency fascinates me.  Mainly because I am not able to understand how, just how it could have happened, how the country could have let it happen. So much horror. Last month, on the anniversary of that dark period that India went through, pictures of Modi and Subramaniam Swamy disguised as Sikhs were doing the rounds. Ironic, given that 9 years later, Sikhs would shave off their beards and discard their turbans to escape death. People frustrated with government offices these days still invoke the time when everyone, right from the peon to the officers, were at their desks at 9 am sharp. But these memories are from those who lived sheltered lives back then. Like Nusswan and Mrs. Gupta. Not those who experienced the other side of The Emergency coin. Like Ishvar and Om. That unfine imbalance. No hope. Only despair.

A middle aged Parsi widow, trying to keep her head above water to remain independent from her uncaring brother. A man whose father defied his Village by The River and dared to do the unthinkable : turn cobblers into tailors. A young boy, the second generation of the Mochi- turned- Darji family. Another young boy uprooted from his peaceful mountains and thrown into the City by the Sea by his well-intentioned but stubborn parents. This unlikely foursome is brought together by destiny and torn apart by fate, the inevitable fate.

Every single character made a deep impact on me. The grateful Ashraf Chacha and that neighbourhood, the revolutionary college boy fighting The System, be it the college canteen caterer or the Prime Minister, the good-bad Beggarmaster, the happy legless beggar Shankar, the repentant rent collector, the Monkey man, his monkeys and that prophecy, the hair seller who keeps rising from his ashes, the policeman Kesar who does what good he can do with his system-tied hands. Everyone is a piece in a jigsaw puzzle that falls together to create a picture of Reality. Turn the jigsaw puzzle over and it forms another picture of  Reality with insensitive Nusswan, the shallow Sodawallas, the cold Mrs. Gupta , a sympathetic but judgy Zenobia,  the clueless Kohlahs,  the faceless Landlord, Thakur Dharamsi and the unnamed Prime Minister and Her Son.

I didn’t realise that this book was 600+ pages long , it just kept me going and going on the Kindle. It wasn’t enough. I read the last few pages again and again, trying to find some hidden ray of hope. There was no hope, but there was no despair too. The small but sweet victory in the end was significant enough. Acceptance, the midpoint between hope and despair. Or the sweet release of Death.

I felt an impotent anger throughout the book . An anger towards the unfairness of it all. Many things in this book kept drawing me to Today and it shames me to realise that nothing has actually changed since 1975. The slums remain, they have grown in size and not a whisper when they are razed to the ground; outrage is reserved only for illegal Campa Cola flats. Caste still makes girls swing lifeless from mango trees, gets children’s body parts cut off. Caste still draws crowds to the polling booths where a lone Narayan continues to defy once in a while and is nipped in the bud. Legless beggars continue to roll on wooden platforms, women with babies unrelated to them still tap on tinted glass windows at traffic signals, cars still run over pavement dwellers. Women burn midnight oil, sewing buttons and glitter on dresses that will sell in far off countries with a price tag more than their yearly wages. Politicians continue to recruit audience by the busload,claiming to be their servant, promising them that old promises will be kept.  Spending Rs. 47 a day puts people in the Not-Poor list. And the imbalance continues.

Fictional men I love

Books and movies have spoilt it for me. Too many expectations, too few men.

The bookmen came first, but the moviemen came along and made the bookmen even more desirable. Waiting for Velutha to get a face and Big to get some print someday.

Here’s my lust list

Velutha

rhett

A rippled chocolate body smelling of woodshavings. A white smile that lights up whiter for his forbidden love. A man who loves his lover’s children as much as he loves her. A quiet, controlled, confused communist. A man who silently carries his family’s crosses. A man torn between love and idealogy, reality and principles. A man who warms himself in that taboo fire and lets that fire finally consume him. What’s there not to love in Velutha.

Big

Image

Rich, connected, handsome. A commitment phobe who fights his true feelings, but also fights for his woman when he realises that she is The One. Someone who drives around her street like a madman hoping to get back what he let go of. A secret softie who leaks nose-water when emotional ( that last scene from episode in Paris. How cute was that). A big daddy type; the stronger, mature, older man who makes the world seem alright the moment he takes you into his arms (in a good way,no psychanalysis please). Someone who knows that the secret of a happy marriage is space. While I’m a big advocate of separate bedrooms and bathrooms, Big proposed an even more brilliant idea: Separate apartments two days a week. I’d absofuckinlutely fall for a man like Big.

Karna

aa

Cheated at birth, cheated at death, cheated in life that happens in between. Cheated by his mother, cheated by his guru, cheated by his love, cheated by his god. If there ever is a soul who is so wronged and tormented it is Karna. Someone who loves a woman so much that he publicly humiliates her. ( I somehow don’t judge him one bit for that and surprisingly, she too didn’t). Tormented till the very end by that unattainable love that should have been, that life that should have been.  He lives his life quiet and righteous till the very end, keeping that inner turmoil simmering inside him forever. Karna is a man who evokes every emotion from you. He is someone you want to pull up to your bosom, make him pour his heart out and then comfort him telling him that everything will be alright.

Rhett Butler

rhett
The ultimate man. Suave, sneaky, smirky, sexy. Unapologetic. He can see right through a woman, he can read right into her soul. And he waits until he finds himself in her heart. He isn’t sappy and whiny, he doesn’t pretend, he really doesn’t care. But he aches so much for the one he knows is his destiny. He knows when to forgive, when to forget and when to draw the line. Rhett Butler is one man whom I would  give a damn for. And someone I’d want to give a damn for me

Michael Corleone

rhett
The reluctant bad boy. Responsible enough to take on the family legacy he ran away from. Tough enough to wreak quiet revenge. Cold enough to kill a brother who betrays. Thoughtful enough to wait for his mother’s death to do it. Loving enough to beat the hell out of the man who hit his baby sister. Romantic enough to be hit by a thunderbolt. Determined enough to pursue that sudden strike. Sensitive enough to keep the past out of the future. Strong enough to move on to his past again. Human enough to be himself. What won’t I give to be the thunderbolt that hits someone like him.