Depiction of Slum Life in Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance

P. Murugesan, Dr. R. Soundararajan


Rohinton Mistry has become one of the pre-eminent writers of the post-colonialist writing movement. Although he now lives in Toronto, he sets his novels primarily in his native Bombay, combining a natural, direct style with simple description to present an honest and loving image of India. With attention to the detail of his characters’ everyday lives, his books often explore the tragic circumstances of India’s desperate poor even as he balances this misery by presenting the dignity and joy, they feel in simple pleasures and their extended families. Caste system has been a glaring, tragic fact of life ever since Manu Smriti divided the society into four castes—Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. Although condemned for oppressing and exploiting the lower caste, especially Shudras, the system has been justified as sanctioned by the scriptures by interested parties in spite of several social reform movements initiated in the twentieth century by Mahatma Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar, who worked for social equality all through their lives. Abolition of untouchability and ending discrimination on the basis of caste is a fundamental principle of the Indian Constitution, yet we find that it is still being practiced in various parts of the country, especially in rural areas. The main action of the novel, A Fine Balance is centered on the relationships between Dina Dalai, a middle-aged Parsi widow struggling to maintain her independence, Maneck Kohlah, the young Parsi student whom she takes in as a boarder, and Ishvar and Omprakash Daqi, two Hindu tailors whom Dina employs to work out of her apartment. The novel chronicles their individual stories while developing the narrative of their lives together during a tumultuous period in modem Indian history.

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