I recently reread A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and I have to say, it was just as good the second time around. Mistry himself was born in Mumbai during the 1950’s, moving to Canada in his twenties and I believe this gives him he a solid background for depicting Indian issues.
I couldn’t possibly do justice to the eloquently written prose, but I can try to sum up the story without revealing too much. The story begins decades prior to The Emergency in India, however it comes together during the few years when this upheaval is in full swing, giving depth to a time and place when corruption was ripe and the poor and less fortunate lived in fear. In the unnamed city by the sea, two tailors seek their fortunes, one student aims to please his parents and finish a certificate program at the country’s best school and a lonely widow does what she can to live independently. For one year, these four, from different cultural, economic, and social backgrounds live merrily under one roof, supporting each other and developing into a family united against the oppression surrounding them. Beautiful, tragic, gut-wrenching, sad, powerful, real, enlightening, educational, and triumphant.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a story with a happy ending, but it does have a shining light within it and that light does not go out, no matter how dire the circumstances are.