I love anything Indian - cuisine, couture or culture. Same goes for books too. I simply love Indian authors. R.K. Narayanan is an all time fav with others like Shashi Tharoor, Jhumpa Lahiri, Amitav Ghosh being authors I love going back to. Last week when I finished reading "A fine balance" by Rohinton Mistry, I had another name to add to my list of "wow" authors.
A fine balance is the story of four people from different background who end up having a strangely symbiotic relationship. Its a weird juxtaposition of Dina Dayal, a Parsi widow; OmPrakash and Ishvar, two tailors and Maneck a student. Its an odd ensemble, but the way life makes strange partners is something to be watched out for. I loved the backdrop of each character that the author provides. Its elaborate but not boring in the slightest bit.
There are a host of supporting characters -
- Shankar - the limbless beggar who is strangely optimistic inspite of his physical deformities
- Beggarmaster - the one who employs Shankar and ends up having a link with the four main characters
- Maneck's mom and dad - who rue the loss of pristine mountain beauty in their quaint hilly town and somehow end up distancing Maneck as a result of misplaced angst
- Rajaram - a slum dweller with the tailors who again ends up having a lot of say in the flow of things.
- Ashraf Chacha - the guru for the tailors
There is a lot of characterization and a lot of sub plots. It ends up making the book 614 pages thick, but somehow there is not a bit which feel extraneous. Every bit is relevant and ties up neatly. Some of the twists and turns might seem a bit too fantastical - but then the book is a work of fiction. Set in the 1970s, the backdrop itself is an interesting revelation.
Being a die hard optimist, the book's macabre turn of events and pathos did not bog me down. But then, some episodes may put off the very emotional ones - cos there is only so much suffering one can see. Taste for yourself and see, if this Booker nominee ends up painting the world in shades of black or shades of grey for you.