I just finished "Such a Long Journey" by Rohinton Mistry. Such a wonderful book. This is the guy that wrote "A Fine Balance", which I loved, and also "Swimming Lessons: and Other Stories from Firozsha Baag". This author is so terrific, I can't begin to tell you.
from the back cover:
"Such a Long Journey" introduces us to a novelist who recalls both Dickens and the early V.S. Naipaul. Through the best of movtives Gustad Noble becomes enmeshed in the corruption of the Indira Gandhi years. Gustad's attempt to sort out his conflicting loyalties manages to be ribald and heartbreaking, deeply compassionate adn unsparing, in its depiction of the venalities and compromises that make up this novel's large and teeming world.
Gustad is such a wonderful man to observe as he makes his way through the story. I really enjoy novels that are set in other countries, written by people from those countries. Mistry was raised in Bombay and emigrated to Canada in 1975, and his descriptions of the plight of the average joe living out their lives in the heart of Bombay, India are totally delicious. I really did savor every word of this novel, just as I have the other two books of his I've read. I just ordered his one other book I've not read online, in fact!
My favorite passage:
Dinshawji smiled weakly. 'Your smiles will vacate the premises,' said Gustad, 'when you hear what I have to tell you.'
'You keep shouting at me,' he complained. 'All afternoon you have been drowning yourself in anger. But why not say what has left its sting poking in your heart?'
"I want you to be able to enjoy your cup of tea first. It may be the last thing you will ever enjoy.'
Dinshawji laughed, a poor copy of his usual incorrigible laugh. 'What suspense you are creating, yaar. Taking tuitions from Alfred Hitchcock or what?'
(Dinshawji is a real cutup at work, raunchy joke and has been making jokes about wanting to introduce the bank receptionist named Laurie to his lorri. 'You can play with my lorri,' he said, 'such fun the two of you will have together.' Well Laurie finds out that lorri is a slang term for penis and realizes what's been going on, and so decides to confide in Gustad before taking the matter up the chain of command. But obviously she is mortified and wants to quit, but can't quit, etc. Gustad assures Laurie that he will convince Dinshawji never to upset her again and has arranged to meet Dinshawji after work to lay into him.)
Gustad minced no words, wanting them to be as deadly as the goaswalla's knife that went bhup! Dinshawji's pale countenance lost its last trace of colour; his mouth fell open, fetid breath billowed across the table. 'But there is more,' said Gustad mercilessly. Dinshawji gazed blankly at his hands in his lap, too ashamed to look up, too dazed to speak. "Luckily, Laurie does not believe in your secret service and ten lakh rupees and guerrillas. She laughed when she told me. But if it reaches Madon's ears? And he gets suspicious about our deposits? What are we going to do then, you bloody fool?'
(so then Gustad tells Dinshawji that he must stop harrassing the coworker, and that he will tell the others that 'poor Dinshawji's health is not good again, he is completely under the weather' so that Dinshawji has an excuse for toning down his behavior across the board at the bank where they work. Thru out the book, Dinshawji is described in such a way so you realize he has been slowly growing seriously ill.)
From the next morning, Dinshawji changed utterly. Everyon'es heart went out to the grave individual, suddenly fragile and spent, who greeted them with only a quiet hallo. When Gustad came across him later in the day, he was surprised at how authentically Dinshawji project his new image. Till he remembered that it seemed authentic because Dinshawji was no longer playing a role; reality, at last, had caught up with him; and Gustad felt awful for confiscating his mask.
Anyways. a really terrific read. I can highly recommend it. Especially if you enjoed "A Fine Balance", and who wouldn't?!