|Maybe it was in another lifetime?|
A Day in the Market with Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash
There we were, the three of us, taking a break from our constant stitching, in a colourfully crowded outdoor market, choosing ginger and chillies, happily remarking on the sights around us and looking forward to cooking together later in the afternoon.If you thought you recognized those names as characters from Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, you are right. The truth is that I lost all sense of balance while reading this utterly engrossing novel. I opened the book after a Christmas dinner several years ago, and since the kitchen was brimming with food of every description, I didn’t need to cook for three days, so I spent them poring over my book. Other than necessary trips to the kitchen and bathroom, sunup to sunset , my days involved with these characters were so real I could smell and taste them.
The only time I put this excellent novel down was to crash into a deep sleep, where I had the most vivid dream that I was one of the tailors, and had been for my entire life. I felt such a fondness for Omprakash who is enchanted by the luxury he sees in the landlady’s bathroom, while the student who boards in the same home is disgusted by its poverty and grime. How I looked forward to a future where Omprakash would be married and raising a family. A kinder and more giving husband and father could never be found. But our dream is slammed hard when he is instead captured and castrated, as part of the government’s plan to control population growth.
Mistry is a Canadian writer, born in Bombay, who has written several other fine novels and short stories. I strongly recommend anything by him that you can find! Usually books set in South Asia inspire me to charge into the kitchen, and if it hadn’t been filled to the brim with buttertarts, turkey and cranberries, I’m sure I would have produced some of the meals that our tailors created together.