Thursday, September 5, 2013

"A Fine Balance"

If anyone is looking for a good piece of fiction to read, I recommend “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry. Don’t be deterred because it was selected for Oprah’s Book Club or its daunting 700 pages. It was suggested in a discussion on Mumbai tailors since two of the four central characters are tailors. It gives an extraordinary portrait of the oppression suffered by Dalits & other untouchable castes, the plight of the urban poor in India, the perils of homelessness, political repression under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, & forced sterilization programs on males & females under her regime (in the course of one year, the government recorded over 8 million sterilizations: 6.2 million men & 2.05 women).

It’s a harrowing book not given to sentimentality but despite the regrettable fates of the four characters & the absence of “they lived happily after,” it’s not a cynical book because it captures not only the cruelties of class society but the dignity & courage of the most oppressed.

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