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