Saturday, 18 July 2015

Family Matters - Rohinton Mistry

Date of Reading: 05/12/2014
Author: Rohinton Mistry
Publisher: Emblem Editions
Year: 2002
Format: E-book

           Compared to his two other books this bears a different signature style of Mistry. Avoiding the political drama that usually characterizes his novels, this is entirely based on family and personal relationships. Even the title is ambiguous; if we take the 'matters' as a noun then the entire novel becomes a peep into the private matters of one family. On the other hand, if we take it as a verb, it summarizes the whole intention of the story; we need a family -- family matters . . . a lot.
          Woven around a handful of characters the novel provides a remarkable picture of Parsi family life in Mumbai. From the two children to the old Nariman they are equally likable even with their flaws making them humane, and in turn making the story realistic. 
             Setting is Mumbai. Nariman Vakeel is a retired English Professor who now resides in Chateau Felicity with his step children Jal and Coomy. His own daughter Roxana lives with her husband Yezad and their two children -- Murad and Jahangir -- in Pleasant Villa, a little flat gifted to them by Nariman.
         Though suffering from Parkinsons, Nariman is adamant to take his daily evening walk against the constant warnings of Coomy until on a fatal day he falls down and break his leg. Doctor advises a three weeks rest but Jal and Coomy fails miserably in taking care of him. And they didn't have enough funds to hire a hospital ayah and Nariman had spent his retirement money to procure the flat for Roxana. As a last resource they pack him off to the congested flat of Roxana where in spite of the irritation from Yezad's part, he finds love and peace with the two children.
         His traumatic past haunts Nariman at night. He was in love with Lucy Braganza against the wishes of both their parents as she was a non-Parsi. Finally the pressure from the parents breaks the alliance and Nariman marries Jal and Coomy's widowed mother, Yasmin Contractor. But Lucy continues in her efforts to be near him which irritates Yasmin extensively. The public drama involving both the lovers ends tragically when both Lucy and Yasmin falls from the rooftop while quarreling, to imminent death. 
         Yezad works in Bombay Sporting Goods Emporium with a meager salary and now with his father-in-law living in the house has turned the matters worse. To prevent Nariman from moving back after three weeks, Coomy destroys the plasters on the ceiling making it looks like a leaking accident. A complacent Jal goes with the plan reluctantly.
        When Edul Munshi, their next door neighbour offers to repair the ceiling free of cost, Coomy agrees; but in his inexpert hands the beam falls down killing along with Coomy. On the same day Mr. Kapur, the employer of Yezad is stabbed to death by supposedly Shiv Sena workers for refusing to change the name 'Bombay' from the shop's board.
         Jal offers his flat to the unemployed Yezad and the money got from selling Pleasant Villa is used to repair the ceiling; and they live by the interest got from the rest of the money.
         A long epilogue is given through Jahangir's words who narrates the death of Nariman and later the conflicts that sprung between Murad and Yezad, who has suddenly turned into a religious fanatic. Story ends with the birthday celebration of Murad as it is begun by Nariman's birthday.
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