Family Matters: A Review
Family Matters is a popular novel by Rohinton Mistry. It is based on Bombay life. It is set in the 1990s. The picture of Bombay after Babri Masjid demolition has been taken to portray in this novel.
The plot of Family Matters is very interesting. It is the story of the personal struggles of a Parsi family that live in Mumbai, India. Through the lives of this family the novelist tries to explore the larger issues that Parsi people face. The entire novel revolves round the character of Nariman Vakeel. He is the protagonist of the novel. He has been presented as an elderly father. He is 79 years old. He suffers from Parkinson’s disease. The story of this novel deals with the problems concerning the caring of Nariman Vakeel in two branches of his family.
Nariman had a deep love for a non-Parsi woman named Lucy. His family forbade him to marry outside his religion. His parents compel him to break his long lasting affair with Lucy. Under the pressure of his parents Nariman has to accept arranged marriage. So, rather than go against their wishes he married a suitable Parsi widow named Yasmin, the mother of two children named Coomy and Jal. After marriage with Nariman, Yasmin gives birth to a female baby named Roxana. After some time Yasmin dies in tragic circumstances. Roxana is married with Yezad. She lives with her husband Yezad and their children Murad and Jehangeer. In this way Nariman becomes alone. Circumstances compel him to live with his stepchildren in an apartment inside Chateau Felicity.
Coomy is preparing to celebrate Nariman's 79th birthday. She is planning a party for him. Nariman heads out for his evening walk as usual. Coomy forbids him to do so because he has been displaying some early signs of Parkinson’s disease. In spite of Coomy's request he goes on his evening walk. By chance he loses his balance and falls into a ditch. After that anyhow he returns back. Luckily everything is fine. Coomy tries time and again to get him to agree to stop going on his nightly walks, but he refuses.
After the party, Nariman goes on another walk and suffers another fall. This time his ankle is broken. Jal and Coomy carry him to the Parsi General Hospital. Dr. Tarapore sets Nariman’s ankle and puts plaster on it. After some days Nariman returns to the apartment.
Coomy makes an arrangement of a portable commode for him but Nariman feels difficult to use it. Coomy replaces the commode with a bedpan and urinal but Nariman is still struggling.
Jal and Coomy are very angry and frustrated. To serve Nariman is difficult for them. They begin misbehaving with him. They start expressing their anger against him. They cannot forget how Nariman neglected their mother for the sake of a former lover. Both stepchildren have become the owners of the apartment. They consider Nariman a burden. They want to get rid of him. Finally, they decide to send him to the house of Roxana so she can take care of him instead.
Nariman doesn’t want to leave his home but he agrees to go and to live with Roxana if she permits. But Coomy and Jal aren’t interested in her permission. They take Nariman to his daughter’s house. Roxana has no choice but to take him in.
Roxana’s own apartment is cramped. Roxana lives there with her husband, Yezad, and two sons, Murad and Jahangir. But they assume that Nariman will only need to stay for three weeks, so they make concessions. Yezad and Murad are not happy but Jehangir is happy. Happily he helps in taking care of Nariman.
Yezad’s meager salary is not enough to satisfy the demands of a bedridden old man. On the other hand Roxana’s physical and mental health is badly affected by the hard work. Yet Nariman’s stepdaughter refuses to her stepfather back. After Coomy,s accidental death Nariman gets an opportunity to return back to his own large apartment together with Roxana’s family. Guilt-stricken Jal offers to let Roxana and her family move in at the Chateau Felicity apartment. But it is already too late. Yezad has become a Parsi fundamentalist. Murad and Jehangir are frustrated. Nariman dies soon afterwards. These are the family matters.
In Family Matters the family of Nariman is at the centre but time and again we find the political scenario of Bombay. The political fallout does leave an impact upon the life and profession of all the characters of the novel. The characters of the novel talk about Shiv Sena. A character of the novel named Husain is a tragic victim of the Babri Masjid riot. His wife and children are killed in the riot. It has been shown that Shiv Sena involved in looting and burning the poor and innocent people.
Mistry’s attraction for Bombay is, no doubt, fantastic. It can be seen in Family Matters. It has been portrayed as an interesting city. Here Mistry describes various features of Bombay. Nearly all the characters of the novel have deep love for Bombay. Yezad’s boss Mr. Kapur is crazy about Bombay. With Bombay, India is also taken to portray. This novel exposes the corrupt condition of India. The conversation between Nariman and the doctor in the hospital gives the novelist an opportunity to discuss displacement of English from Indian University curriculum. It also provides an opportunity to describe the bad condition of Indian hospitals.
In this novel Mistry has tried to show a common practice of India. That practice affects the life of the protagonist. It has been pointed out that in India it is commonly practiced that the children have to marry according to the wish of their parents. So the same is the tragedy of Nariman. He is independent, earning well, mature enough but according to his parents he is not grown up enough to take the most important decision of his life that was Marriage.
The language of the novelist is a fine specimen of his Indianness. When he describes typical Indian scenes, situations and characters, he uses a different kind of language. His fiction is conspicuous for his use of vernacular.
In short, Family Matters is a fine novel, no doubt. This novel is a beautiful depiction of the Indian family environment. Without any hesitation, I want to recommend this novel to the readers.