There is something about Rohinton Mistry’s characters. They are extremely familiar to you and at times you tend to feel that you recognize them at a personal level. ‘Family Matters’ is quite literally the family matters about 2 families. Nariman Vakeel is suffering from Parkinson’s disease and is staying with his 2 step-children – Jal and Coomy. Both of them are unmarried and are trying their best to take care of their step-father in their family mansion. Their step-sister Roxana is married and is living with her husband and two children in a small 2 bedroom flat, which Nariman had bought out for them during their marriage, spending his lifelong earnings. As Nariman breaks his ankle and becomes bed-ridden, the patience of Jal and Coomy is tested and they finally arrive at a conclusion that Pappa is as much their responsibility as Roxana’s and they conspire together to shift him to their small, crowded flat.
Set in the 90’s Bombay, the events in the novel are set against the backdrop of the political happenings during that era. Just like his previous books, this one addresses many of the socio-political issues faced by the people of that time and Mistry leaves no stone unturned in criticizing the incumbent government of promoting communalism and bigotry. But more than that it raises the fundamental issues of old age, when one is helpless to take care of oneself. The constant flashbacks into his life as he lies there in pain and despair offers a window into his past and mulls at the one wrong decision he took, or rather was forced on him, which changed his life. He lived all his life in regret and now he is dying in regret.
There are so many themes in ‘Family Matters’, but more than anything else it is an honest portrayal of love, hope, pain, despair and a multitude of emotions that run through a family. A highly recommended book.