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Rohinton Mistry

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  • March 2013
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INTRODUCTION

Rohinton Mistry’s first volume, a collection of linked short stories was published in the United States as Swimming Lessons and Other Stories from Firozeshah Baag and in Canada and the United Kingdom as Tales from Firozeshah Baag. It is a collection of eleven interrelated stories that explore the lives of several residents in “a Bombay apartment complex Firozeshah Baag”. Firozeshah Baag is a locale-a place in each story like R K Narayan’s Malgudi in ‘Malgudi Days, John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, or V S Naipaul’s Mignel Street. In the post-colonial period especially the Parsi community feels its vantage point threatened, it’s cultural importance challenged even it’s economic superiority eroded. In this context, the baag becomes the community refuge, a bulwark against a fast changing city which appears increasingly menacing, within the Baag are the ties that bind –the common language, common customs-without is the deluge. Mistry does not endorse this exclusiveness often he is seen to laugh at it but he understands the need for it, even while he shows it’s stultifying effects. ‘Baag’ is a regimental world within a world, which provides security. It is cut off from the harsh realities of Indian life

The stories in Tales from Firozeshah Baag describe a sequence of events, medicated through a shuttling temporality, taking place over the space of several years in the 1960s,during which the main recurring protagonist Kersi Boyes-who also turns out to be the narrator who assembles the stories and effectively ‘writes’ the book we are reading-grows from youth to maturity. Thus the stories describe and enact the sometimes-uncomfortable journey from innocence to experience as well as, in the later tales from Firozeshah Baag to Canada. In true short story cycle fashion the volume is constructed in such a way as to show how the lives of the Baag residents are connected beyond the individual narratives in which they may be personally involved. Each tale...

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