“Such a long journey” is the first novel of Rohinton Mistry, the Indian-Canadian writer. This was nominated for Bookers prize in 1991 and won Common Wealth writers prize in 1992. I remember reading in papers about Mistry for the first time when he got Commonwealth writers prize in 1996 for his novel – “A Fine Balance“. That was when I was in school. When I saw his “A fine balance” some 3,4 years back, I did not hesitate to read it. Around 1.5 years ago, I chanced upon his “Tales from Ferozshah bagh” and read a couple of stories. Ever since, I was on a hunt for his books. Alas, he wrote so few books! 😦 Anyways, Such a long journey is only long in name. Mistry’s unputdownable style makes reading it a very short and enjoyable journey. It was made in to a movie later, by Sturla Gunnarsson in 1998.
Its a story of Gustad Noble and the events in his life. At one point of time, Gustad’s daughter Roshan falls ill, his son Sohrab frustrates him by refusing to take his hard earned IIT seat and leaving home and his long lost friend Jimmy Bilmoria asking him a wierd favour. This is the story line in brief. Towards the end, after several accidents, incidents and deaths, the book ends. What makes the whole narrative interesting is obviously Mistry’s style which mixes- humour,satire,mystery,nostalgia and sentiment in appropriate proportions and makes reading a pleasure. The language and his play of words are very enjoyable.
It is under this genre of books which I call as “parellel history” or “history of common man”. This novel discusses two topics in history. The first one being politics of the 60s-70s in India. The second one is the Parsi life style. I came to know a lot of things about the political scenario in those days and how public were affected by the two wars – China war and Bangladesh War. I never knew before how the situation was like in wartimes and what people talked about it at that time. The political part of the narrative shocked me in some ways, at some parts – for example – the Bilmoria case and the RAW issue.It prompted several discussions between me and a few others in the past 2,3 days after reading the book. I am still in a shock to believe all that happened… Parsi life style is another totally new story to me. Mistry describes it so elaborately that I felt as if I was living in a Parsi colony, when I was reading this book 🙂 The families, their superstitions, their ideals – everything sent me to a totally new world.
Actually, in one way, this is a typical Mistry book, nothing special. For, even “A fine balance” bases itself on the above mentioned two topics in history – parsi life and politics. Politics in both the books refer to the same prime minister. City in both the books is Bombay. Almost all the characters in both the books are Parsi. In that sense, Mistry has already became predictable, atleast for me, after this book. But, still, I don’t think I will hesitate to read another book of his despite all these problems that I have with his books. The reason obviously is his style and language. Mistry casts some spell on his readers, for sure. 🙂