‘Such a Long Journey’ is a book that fills you with sadness. The book is wrapped around a lot of pain and melancholy. Set in 1971 in the backdrop of Indo-Pakistan war, it is the story of a Parsi family living in Bombay. Gustad Nobel, the protagonist works in a bank and is somehow making both ends meet for his family which consists of his wife and 3 children. They live along with other Parsi families in a building called Khodabad building, which ultimately becomes the locale for the climax of the novel. These families provide some of the other characters in the novel. Be it the eccentric Ms. Kutpitia or the disabled Tehmul Lungra, Mistry’s characters evocate despair, some of it due to troubled pasts.
Bombay, the city is another character in the novel. The melancholy is painted across the book using the wide canvas of the city. The stench of garbage, overflowing gutters, swarms of mosquitoes and flies, water shortage traffic jams echoes the overall mood of the city as well the country. But the underlying theme of the novel is the lack of hope. Gustad Nobel is troubled by his hip which he damaged in an attempt to save his son in a road accident. But that is least of his concerns. The same son, is now refusing to join the IIT after getting an admission because he is somehow not interested in it now. His youngest child, Roshan is facing constant bouts of diarrhea. His dear friend and companion has disappeared from their life and which is the central plot of the novel.
This book also highlights the plight of minorities especially the Parsis. Just like ‘A Fine Balance’, Mistry talks a lot about the socio-political condition of the country during that time. The refugee tax which was imposed to aid the refugees coming from East Pakistan makes its presence at multiple occasions in the book. Same is the scathing attack on the political party Shiv Sena and its founder, the reason for which it was withdrawn from the syllabus of Mumbai University. The central plot of the movie was somehow not as good as I had expected, probably because I draw a lot of my conclusion from the comparison with ‘A Fine Balance’, but still keeps you engrossed. The characters are masterfully crafted and many of them stay with you after the book. I think that is the beauty of Mistry’s writing. His writing is honest and packed with intricate details. I am now looking forward to read ‘Family Matters’.