Monday, August 28, 2006

A Fine Balance by Robinton Mistry

A Fine Balance by Robinton Mistry is set in an unnamed Indian city during unknown period.

The novel about four primary figures who carry the weight of the centuries of Indian culture, religion, and conflicts. There are contradictions too deep to overcome. The poverty is too grinding. The caste distinctions are also massive. Despite their disparate backgrounds, the four develop into something like a family, as they lean on each other in the face of financial hardship, personal troubles, and political turmoil.

But inevitably events eventually catch up to the little group and the centripetal force of their affection for one another proves no much for the centrifugal force of a society that offers little or no economic opportunity, no real prospects for single women, discriminates against religious minorities, and is embarked on a genuinely evil campaign of mass sterilizations of unwilling citizens. All of these forces come to bear on the apartment dwellers in ways that range from the merely sad to the truly horrific.

Through the dramatic and often shocking turns their lives take, we get an intimate view, not only of their world, but also of India itself in all its extraordinary variety. As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, book creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

A Fine Balance is so ineffably sad that it seems only fair to caution readers that they may find it too heartbreaking. In the end, it avails the oppressed naught that their oppressors may share a skin color, it is ideas such as freedom and equality, opportunity which really matter and which provide the setting in which people, such as those so lovingly portrayed here, can maintain their balance and realize their dreams.

1 comment:

Annitya said...

You've written a very good review of it. I'm still on the middle of book; it's just so sad, and I feel even more sad as some of these problems may still persist in the society.