Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"One Sunday" by Rohinton Mistry

"One Sunday" by Rohinton Mistry (1987, 21 pages)

Short Stories of the Indian Subcontinent
A Reading Life Project

Rohinton Mistry

I am very pleased  that The Reading Life was recently recommended by The Economic Times of India,the leading financial daily of The Subcontinent.   

The Reading Life Guide to The Indian Short Story

This is my seventh  post for a  new permanent event on The Reading Life, short stories of the Indian subcontinent.   There is no literary culture with roots older than that of India.   I will always admire Edmund Burke for telling the English that they had no right to govern a region whose culture is much older than theirs.  Many of the geographic boundaries that created these countries were created by the British or are consequences of their misrule.       Some of the writers featured will be internationally famous, such as Salmon Rushdie, Saadat Manto,  and R. K. Narayan but most of the writers I post on will be authors on whom there are no prior book blog posts.    There are numerous books and academic conferences devoted to exploring the colonial experiences of India and Ireland and I will look at these stories partially as post colonial literature.   My main purpose here is just to open myself up to a lot more new to me writers and in this case most will be new to anyone outside of serious literary circles in the region.  Where I can I will provide links to the stories I post on but this will not always be possible.

I have previously posted on two of Rohinton Mistry's wonderful novels,  Such a Long Journey and Family Matters.   I totally endorsed both of these works  and I was glad to see a short story by Mistry (born in Mumbai, India in 1952 and  he is now a Canadian citizen) included in the anthology Passages:  24 Modern  Indian Stories.   

I do not think this story can be read online (if anyone knows where one of his short stories can be read  on the net, please let me know) so I will just do a short post on this very good story.   Like his novels in multi-family dwelling and we get to see the lives of several of the residents and their opinions of each  other.   One of the fun and brilliant things about the work of Mistry is his skill in showing us the contrast between what people say they think to what they really do feel in their private moment.    Mistry's insight into the human heart is very deep.

The story is set in Mumbai as are his novels.  As the story opens Najamai, a 55 year widow with daughters, is getting ready to lock up her flat and take the train to visit her sister in Bandra.   She thinks it is good that her downstairs neighbors use her fridge as the activity of them coming in and out will discourage intruders.   It is fun to listen in on Najamai's thoughts about her neighbors.    There is another central character in the story, a man who used to work for a neighborhood furniture store until he lost his job many years ago.   Now he lives under the awning of the store and does odd jobs for people in the area.   He comes to residence of Najamai after she left as she had told him to come by and she would have some work for him.   She must have forgotten this as she was leaving.   The man is in great distress as he has no food money.   He looks around in her apartment, the neighbors let him in and he has a good time looking at the underpants of her daughters though he is quite turned off by hers because of the size!.

We also learn a lot about the cricket obsessions of the teenage boys living in the building and we see how one of the boys sharpens his batting skills by using his bat to kill rats.    Everyone in this story is very concerned with keeping up appearances, with what the neighbors think of them and gossip is big.

I would fur sure read more of his stories and I am very much looking forward to reading his acknowledged by all best novel, A Fine Balance.  It is considered the best novel set in Bombay, as Mumbai was once called and as the people who live in Mistry's novels wish it was still called.   I think you cannot go wrong reading a Mistry novel.

This story is in participation in Nancy Cudis's great event, Short Stories on Wednesday.   I hope lots of   people will join us in sharing our love of short stories.

Mel u

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