Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests

Monday, April 6, 2015

"No Status for Saints" by Burjor K. Karanjia (1962?)

"‘I tell you, our community is going to the dogs.’ Pesi was on to his favourite topic. ‘Time was when you couldn’t find a Parsi beggar in the streets of Bombay. We used to boast there was not a single prostitute in our community. Can we do so now? All because of men like him!’"

Burjor K. Karanjia (1919 to 2012) was born and grew up in Quetta (now in Pakistan).  He moved with his family to Mumbai when the Subcontinent was partioned in 1947.  He followed the Parsi faith. Professionally  he was a film editor and movie critic as well as a diverse  genre writer.  This story was originally written in English and first appeared in The Hindu Times.  (My date of publication is a guess, if you have data on this please let me know.)

The story begins with three older Parsai men out for a walk.  They are lamenting the decline of the moral standards of their community.  One of the men is considered, sarcastically, the unofficial historian of the Bombay Parsi community and he begins a denigration of another older man who has left his wife and taken up with a prostitute.  Questions of caste or ex-caste status are often not far away in the Indian short story.  Prostitutes were most often from Dalit castes so the association is a doubled source of shame.  The man had gotten himself written up in the Parsai newspaper for paying for an abortion for the prostitute, her sixth. It was interesting to learn that the Parsi newspaper and community were loyalist to the British Raj right up to the end.   The narrator, who can see beyond the obvious into what the other about man valued in his relationship with the prostitute. He meets her when they are both at the hospital visiting the man on his deathbed.  He later goes to see her in the red light area where she lives.  She becomes fully human  as we know her and I think the man arises above his culturally conditioned thinking..

"No Status for Saints" can be read in Best Indian Short Stories, Vol. II.  

Mel u


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Mel, I loved the choice of your book. B.K. Karanjia's elder brother, Rusi Karanjia, or R.K. Karanjia as he was known, was one of the firebrand editors of India, known for his investigative journalism. He founded the weekly newspaper called BLITZ, now defunct. My dad, my wife, and I worked under him at different times in our journalistic career. The Karanjias are Parsis, as you mentioned, and I'm married to one even though I'm a Hindu.

mel u said...

Prashant. Thanks very much for this highly interesting data. Fascinating