I am almost to the end of this 768 page heavy weight novel by Rohinton Mistry. I find myself deliberately slowing my pace reading it to make it last a bit longer! I picked this book up at a yard sale last summer along with a bunch of other great books that I chose to read before this one...probably because of the size and subject....I struggle to make time for reading because I prefer to sit and read a book quickly. But with four kids who tend to interrupt me, I end up feeling cranky so I have used it as an excuse to only read books for information versus pleasure...bad I know!
The novel is slow to unwind but you won't mind because the author weaves such a vivid picture of India's disturbed political and social climate in the mid-1970s and describes in detail the huge divide between rich and poor, the treatment of woman and children and the total disregard for the poor & handicapped. The characters are warm and loving even though they to have many of the same bias towards one another depending on their caste.
What has kept me absorbed is the characters sheer determination to live...the will to keep moving, to outsmart the evil found in a system that was corrupt and cruel...because to give up is to die. Yet, if any of us found ourselves in the situations of the main characters I wonder if we wouldn't give up?
The conditions were horrible and cruel, yet they found happiness in the simplest of things...reminding you that joy is found in the smaller details of life....not the grandiose, but the brief moments that makes your soul lurch and your heart lighten. When they had little they still gave to those less fortunate. It wasn't done out of guilt, but rather, out of compassion and humility knowing that there was others worse off than they were!
The sheer cruelty towards humanity told in this book will shock you...yet, it reminds you why our world is often the way it is. We have an incredible capacity towards cruelty, indifference, and apathy. These people were beaten down by a system that was corrupt at every level, which is then reflected in their own value system and actions. Society considered the poor dispensible, replacable, clutter, a blight on the city and country.
Yet, you will be humbled as you are reminded that within all of us is the capacity to reach out and touch people with kindness, compassion and respect. Even though values can be skewed, choices made dependent on the situation, it is more important to judge the character or intent behind the action rather than your perception or understanding of it based on your own situation or where you are in life.