Such A Long Journey: A Book Review
Such A Long Journey, no doubt, is an interesting novel. It has been written by Rohinton Mistry who is appreciated as one of the prestigious members of Indian Diaspora. What a fascinating novel it is! This fantastic piece of work deals with India and its culture. It is closely linked with social and political environment of our motherland India. It beautifully portrays the life of an Indian city, Bombay.
As we know that the year 1971 is a sensitive point in contemporary Indian history. It was a time of domestic turmoil. It was the time of politics of partiality and aggression. This period also saw the increase of communal politics. Such A Long Journey presents an effective picture of that 1971 of India.
Such A Long Journey is a story of Gustad Noble, a kind hearted Parsi bank clerk. It tells the tale of his family and his friends, his hope and his despair and his success and his failure. The entire tale of this fantastic fiction revolves round Gustad’s character. The plot of this novel is very impressive. It is as follows:
It is the city of Bombay of 1971. Gustad Noble, the protagonist, lives in Khodadad building in Bombay with his family members. He is a bank clerk. His wife Dilnawaz is an efficient house wife. She takes care of her husband and children. Gustad Noble and Dilnawaz have three children. Sohrab is the eldest son of this couple. Darius is the second son. Roshan is their daughter. She is the youngest member of this family. She is nine years old. In short, Gustad, the head of this family, has to face some common problems of the middle class family constantly.
The novel begins with an attractive description of the dawn. We can enjoy all the familiar sounds and smells of the morning.
Gustad Noble, the protagonist of Such A Long journey, suffers a lot throughout the novel. He faces many troubles and challenges. He receives several shocks.
Roshan, the beloved daughter of Gustad, is nine years old. She was the source of gladness for Gustad. She is suffering from some mysterious disease. She remains ill most of the time. Due to her disease her parents suffer from anxiety. In spite of this, her father Gustad decides to celebrate her birthday. His friend Dinshawji co-operates him. To make the celebration grand Gustad makes nice arrangement. In this party Chicken, Basmati rice and XXX Rum are served. After the enjoyable conversation and Dinshawji’s jokes, the serious discussion begin on politics of India. After that when the participants of the party start taking tasty food, the light goes out. At this time an argument starts between Gustad and his eldest son Sohrab on the issue of taking admission in IIT.
This conflict between Gustad and Sohrab is the first major shock that the protagonist of the novel receives. Sohrab is a very intelligent young boy. Fortunately he gets an opportunity to take admission in IIT. But Sohrab refuses to get admitted in IIT. This refusal makes his father upset. He becomes very angry. At this point of time Sohrab appears as a rebel. He is not ready to take admission in IIT at any cost. In his anger Gustad declares that Sohrab is now no more in this world for him. At this declaration Sohrab leaves his home. Sohrab packs a bag and goes to stay with friends. Here Gustad is a typical Indian father who feels frustrated. He thinks that the whole world has turned against him. This mysterious illness of Roshan and the conflict between Gustad and Sohrab make Dilnawaz superstitious. Under the pressure she comes in contact with a witch-like old neighbor. She seeks advice from her about resolving her family problems. Miss Kutpitia motivates her to perform black magic. Such incidents are very common in Indian families.
A new dispute appears in the life of the protagonist when Darius, the second son of Gustad, develops friendship with Jasmine. Jasmine is the daughter of Mr. Rabadi. This friendship creates a new problem for Gustad. This friendship of Darius with Jasmine offers Mr Rabadi an opportunity to blame Darius and his family. This relationship of friendship leads to an argument between Rabadi and Gustad. This situation offers nothing but tensions in the life of Gustad.
Gustad gets the second major shock, when he receives a letter and a parcel from his old friend Major Jimmy Bilimoria. He was requested to deposit the sent money into a secret bank account. It was a huge amount of rupees 10 lakh. The purpose of the deposit was to support the movement in Pakistan for the freedom of Bangladesh. No doubt it was very risky for his life and job. His fast friendship with Jimmy compelled him to accept the proposal after some hesitation. Anyhow Gustad completed this risky task with the help of his another bosom friend named Dinshawji. In this phase of his life he experiences strange happenings. Ultimately due to this incident his life is shattered. He has to face a very complicated political situation. After some time Gustad finds news about Bilimoria’s arrest in a paper. He comes to know that Bilimoria is kept in a jail in Delhi. In the meantime he receives a letter from him. He is desirus to see him and he wants to explain everything to him. Gustad fulfills his desire. He goes to see him to delhi. The meeting between the two takes place. Bilimoria asks for Gustad’s forgiveness for involving him in a political conspiracy. Later Bilimoria dies in suspicious circumstances. This event appears as the harbinger of disaster in the life of the protagonist of the novel.
The plot of the novel informs us that Dinshawji, a great jokester, is the best friend of Gustad. Both work in the same bank. They have fantastic intimacy. As a true friend Dinshawji is always ready to help Gustad. Eventually, once Dinshawji collapses. He becomes injured. Gustad helps him in his peril. He carries him to the hospital. Unfortunately, Dinshawji does not recover. His health declines slowly. Meanwhile, Gustad regularly visits Dinshawji. Once when he is returning from a catholic shrine to his home, he comes to know that Dinshawji has died. It is a sad news for him. He visits the hospital. He takes his seat beside the dead body of his real friend with wet eyes. He attends his funeral with heavy heart. The death of his friend is a great loss for him.
And last but not least, in order to widen the road the municipal corporation feels the need of the land where Gustad's apartment is situated. In this context a notice is released. It is informed to take down the wall surrounding the Khodadad building. To save the building, Gustad invites an artist to paint murals of Gods and Goddesses on the wall. It is his firm belief that due to the murals the believers of all religions will make efforts to save it. At last when municipal workers begin to break the wall surrounding the Khodadad building, riot breaks out. But finally the wall is removed. Sohrab returns back. The re-union of Gustad and Sohrab takes place.
In this novel Mistry has explored in depth the various complex attributes of Parsi life, history, culture and character. Here the protagonist appears as a typical Indian. It is found in India that whenever an individual suffers a lot, he or she visits holy places to get rid of the problems. Like a typical Indian Gustad also visits several religious places in search of peace.
In this review, it may be mentioned that this novel remarkably presents the sights, sounds, smells, colours, environments, the institutions, communities and the politics of Bombay. The description of the famous Crawford and the Chor Bazar is appreciable. Mistry gives an opportunity to the reader to enter the busy world of Bombay. The famous Bombay monsoon finds fantastic expression in the novel. The reader can enjoy the description of Indian train journey. All the absurdities and inconveniences of Indian train journey have been taken to describe in this novel.
The government of Indira Gandhi and India's war against Pakistan provide the political backdrop of this novel. This novel has beautifully presented the political events and conflicts of the early 1970s of India. In the course of conversation some major characters of this novel severely criticise the political activities of Indira Gandhi and the the Shiv Sena. The violence, corruption and nepotism of those days have been taken to condemn. The portrayal of Indian polity, government and its affairs is tinged with irony and satire.
This novel is recommendable. The compassion and the humour of this novel are appreciable. I recommend this novel to those readers who have the deep interest in the Indian history, culture and politics. The live presentation of the challenge, struggle and frustration of middle class people of India is the real merit of this novel.