Mum’s The Word On Mistry Novel

Rohinton Mistry’s novel, ‘Such a long journey’ has accidentally stumbled into a controversy, many years after its publication. It has earned the Shiv Sena’s ire and the Mumbai University (known for the height of its towers) has promptly removed it from its syllabus. The author, sitting in Canada, has launched a broadside against the Sena. A few months earlier, the Bombay High Court held that another Parsi novelist, Marzban, had not insulted the Maharashtrians by using the word, ‘Ghati’ in his book. As a community, we ought to keep out of this spat between Mistry and the Sena. Before some liberal intellectual denounces this as cowardice, do consider the following.

Firstly, this is very much a matter of individual conscience. Any Parsi, as an individual, is indeed at liberty to speak out in favour of or against Mistry. But let us not give this a communal colour. Our community leaders ought to refrain from entering this controversy. There are no elections around the corner and no electoral gains are to be made, by appearing to defend a ‘Parsi’ author. This matter concerns freedom of speech, censorship politics, but has nothing whatsoever to do with the community. Rohinton Mistry just happens to be a Parsi. He does not even expect that his community should take cudgels with his novel’s detractors. On the contrary, he would be embarrassed, were the community to do so.

Secondly, even the Sena has been quick to point out that it is against the contents of the novel, not against the novelist personally. As a matter of fact, in the past, Balasaheb Thackeray, the Sena Supremo, has often said that other minorities ought to learn from the exemplary assimilation of the Parsis into mainstream India. Gujarat CM, Narendra Modi, has voiced similar sentiments about the Parsis. Our fellow communities hold us in high esteem. Parsis generally enjoy the affection of other ethnic groups. Let us not do anything to dissipate this goodwill. Mistry is not being singled out because he is a Parsi. The Sena would have treated a Hindu author of this novel, no differently. May be, even more harshly.

So far the BPP has rightly kept its silence. They should ensure that some dumb wit in its office does not spew out some ire in the next issue of the BPP Review.

We are a microminority enjoying tons of affection. No long or short journey should be allowed to short circuit this reserve of goodwill.

Originally printed in

THE BOMBAY SAMACHAR 24/10/2010: THE SHORT VIEW: MUM’s THE WORD ON MISTRY NOVEL

  • barialaw

    Type your comment here…
    i am sorry but i do not agree with the above article. we must always speak out against censorship etc and it behooves us to do so, especially when one of our community is involved. otherwise we do our forefathers and mothers an injustice. further, this author has won accolades here in North America for his work, was he not nominated for the prestigious giller prize and promoted on Oprah s book club? there should never be any fear of reprisals when suppression of free speech and expression is an issue. and what the heck do these half wits object about in the contents anyway?

  • Mickie Sorabjee

    In today’s tumultuous times, the writer of this piece should be aware of an oft-referred famous quote by Edmund Burke – “For evil to triumph, it is only necessary for good men to do nothing.”

    The bold and the fearless would never acquiesce with such lily-livered counsel as suggested in this article. However, this caution ‘better safe than sorry’ would be welcome unsolicited advice for pusillanimous six satraps of the present BPP who when caught on a sticky-patch, are renowned for their famous stance: tails between legs and read our lips “NO COMMENT.”

    For someone who since their election to office, believe that banning and banishing is solely their prerogative, these Trustees must be all hot under the collar that the Sena Satrap has stolen their thunder by banning the book of a fellow brethren, while they are left dithering on action in defence of the victimised author of banned book. Actually they are apparently left cowering and twiddling their thumbs, lamenting they cant reciprocate even by way of an admonishing diktat like they are quick to take recourse to when dealing with Parsee priests and own womenfolk.

    No matter the intimidation and coercion, history speaks for itself, and cannot be wished away. Even if every book that panned them was put to the bonfire and everyone subjugated into toeing their line, the Shiv Sena would never succeed in living down its undesirable character and ways or prevent cuss words and objectionable language being used against them behind closed doors. This is simply what protagonist Gustad does in Rohinton Mistry’s novel Such A Long Journey. Someone needs to hold a mirror to the Sena and its fascist types, not necessarily spewing ire. Vanquished and out of power when the likes of Hitler and Saddam fall, they fall real hard.

    By the way, are not the Sena leaders’ speeches and their mouthpiece Saamna’s editorials synonymous with offensive language against their pet peeves/rivals? They don’t exactly come out smelling of roses. Once in a while,a dose of one’s own medicine is known to be highly efficacious.