Book Review: A Fine Balance

A Fine BalanceA Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, takes you on a whirlwind of a ride through some of the most difficult years of independent India, portraying its four main characters and a myriad of secondary ones, who face the problems of caste and communal violence, discrimination, poverty, “gundaraj” and the dreadful Emergency.

Emergency is a controversial period of India’s history. The elected PM, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, was accused of election rigging by the Allahabad High Court, which was followed by demands for her resignation. In order to stay in power, she(with the voice of the President) declared Emergency in 1975, supposedly to protect the country from internal disturbances and thereby suspending all the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. All her rivals, including members of opposition, trade unions, student unions, etc. were put in prison.

The novel begins with a chance meeting of two tailors, Ishwar Darji and his nephew, Omprakash Darji with a student, Maneck Kohlah on the local train in an unnamed city by the sea (Mumbai), who are all going to meet the same person, Mrs. Deena Dayal. The two tailors are to be hired by Mrs. Dayal for sewing clothes for an export company, and Maneck, who is the son of Deena’s childhood friend, is going to be a paying guest at her place.

We are then made aware about the background of the four characters. Deena strives to be an independent widow, the two tailors have come from the bitter experience of losing their family to caste violence, and Maneck has been sent by his parents to study in a college to get a diploma in air conditioning and refrigeration, which they consider to be a safe choice for their son’s future in the technically growing country.

Under the period of Emergency, each faces the perils associated with life. The two tailors are once kidnapped as a member of falsely gathered crowd for PM’s speech, they become prey to the demonic beautification(losing their jhopadpatti house and condemned to forced labor) and forced sterilization programs, brought about by the dictatorial reign. Deena continues to face the possibility of losing her house and Maneck is emotionally disturbed by the horrors he see taking place around him.

At its center, this novel narrates how these people come to live under the same roof, sharing food, and constituting a family like bond. Dina slowly begins to recognize tailors as someone equal, denouncing her prejudice towards their caste.

“In the WC, the tailors’ urine smell that used to flutter like a flag in the air, and in Dina’s nose, grew unnoticeable….Then it struck her: the scent was unobtrusive now because it was the same for everyone.”

The tailors grow fond of Dina and find a haven for themselves, sleeping in her veranda. Maneck gets over his depression over the world around him and life and makes some genuine friends. But everything changes. Such few moments of high turn into the worst fates imaginable. Rohinton Mistry, propagates a creation of a fine balance in life, of despair and hope, of struggle and survival.

“You see, we cannot draw lines and compartments and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.’ He paused, considering what he had just said. ‘Yes’, he repeated. ‘In the end, it’s all a question of balance.”

But in the end, everyone loses everything that is vital. Everything decays, the despair wins over the hope and lives are irrevocably changed.

The most striking feature about this work is its true to life scenario and the character sketch and development is impeccable. Rohinton Mistry succeeds in explaining the hardships of the common man of India, through his powerful narrative and story line.

With the tale of intertwining fates and separation, this book pictures how it was and how it still is in some parts of India. The author must further be praised for such secondary characters like the Monkey Man, the hair collector, the Beggarmaster, the Rent collector, the Inspector, etc.

I would recommend this book to anyone willing to read something of significance and something that would make you empathize with the people around you in a new way. It must be taken into account though that it is a sensitive and depressing read.

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I have been left in tears by only a few books. This is one of those books, which stirred such emotions like despair and helplessness in me. I thus wept for all that happens in the world and all that is brought forth by the interminable tide of time.

“What an unreliable thing is time–when I want it to fly, the hours stick to me like glue. And what a changeable thing, too. Time is the twine to tie our lives into parcels of years and months. Or a rubber band stretched to suit our fancy. Time can be the pretty ribbon in a little girl’s hair. Or the lines in your face, stealing your youthful colour and your hair. …. But in the end, time is a noose around the neck, strangling slowly.”

Orb of Occurrences

Flame Orb by Deborah Glessner

smoldering in the fire of life,

my heart has revolted against

the sensible steps of society,

stipulated of, obsessed with time,

and thus my identity twists itself

into patterns, of pain and flame,

to fuel my passion, to feel, and

understand to believe, that

circles do not complete themselves,

every single time, they can be

arcs broken apart, inverted,

dispersed into shards of pictograms,

of criss-cross lines, deluged in colors of

confusion, representative of straying

from the path, becoming one

with the ostentation of this orb of occurrences,

out of control, beyond my hands,

thrown into the arms of air to last,

as long as it lasts


This is linked with Imaginary Garden with real toads’ Artistic Interpretations with Margaret- Orbs.

Red Clay and Roses: The Story Behind the Story

As promised, here is the guest post by the author of Red Clay and Roses, S.K. Nicholls herself, where she discusses the inspiration behind her book. I have already reviewed the book myself. If you haven’t read it, you can read it here. To know more about the book, please click here. Without any further ado, I hand over the writing space to her.

I am honored to be invited to do a guest post on the site of Howanxious.  It is a privilege to be on the same site with so much beautiful and spiritually moving poetry and some very thoughtful and honest book reviews.  I first want to say that my book is a faction; a cross between fiction and truth.  I wrote what happened and did not set out to write a novel.  Publishing was not planned.  I was encouraged to publish after friends read the manuscript.  I have learned so very much from the WordPress community since that time and feel honored also to be among so many talented writers.  I am planning to write more and with serious thought to design and construct.

Howanxious and I discussed a topic for today’s guest post and we decided that a post on the inspiration behind the book would be appropriate.  As I mentioned, the book is fiction based on a true story, otherwise known as a “Faction Novel”.  For that reason, I had limited control on what would happen to the characters, and basically wrote about things that happened based on a collection of stories from my own experiences in getting to know the characters in real life and the characters they exposed me to through their own stories, their tragedies and triumphs.

Finding the Ledger in 1992 was the impetus for the story in Red Clay and Roses.I did not want the stories of the real people and characters to be forgotten.  The book has two primary themes:  Racism and women’s reproductive rights and responsibilities.  These are two themes which are sensitive and delicate, and often ignored in literature or skimmed over briefly.  I sought to provide a more in depth and personal examination.

There are political and spiritual overtones in the book.  Much research of factual historical matter was woven into the story for posterity’s sake.  My inspirations for writing this book were twofold:

1. Civil Rights: The love of my grandchildren and my desire to see them grow up in a world that is not only tolerant, but accepting of people of color with full integration and understanding, and without bigotry.

I have two mixed race grandchildren.  I raised my children to not see color in their observations of people. White people often do not understand the anger of blacks or other people of color because we have not suffered the oppression and effects of bigotry.  Red Clay and Roses examines the history of those oppressions; the bigotry that existed in the 1950& 60’s, the dilemmas faced by those who suffered through the era before the Jim Crow Laws were repealed and then enforced in the South, and how life was for people as they attempted to acclimate to the new law. I wanted to record that history of the Civil Rights Movement in context to the characters of the story. People tend to forget that it was once not only inappropriate to mingle and mix with people of color; it was actually against the law to do so in many places. I want my offspring and others to know and understand where they came from, and where they need to go if we are to more forward and progress to the point where we are truly “post racial”.

2. Women’s Rights: A strong desire to present the realities of the world as it was for women before Roe vs. Wade.

In Red Clay and Roses, many women from many different situations and backgrounds are faced with the issue of pregnancy when it was not expected.  There were no birth control pills in that era (until 1960), and women’s rights and resources were minimal.  They often resorted to unimaginable tactics and were faced with unmentionable horrors in their plight to assume some sense of control over their lives.   Chauvinism perpetuated those horrors.  It was not my desire to choose sides with respect to the prolife or/& prochoice movements, but merely to give examples of the reality of the world for women when their choices were so severely limited.  It was also an opportunity to demonstrate the complexities of adoption and share how that option changes outcome.  I had worked with the National Organization for Women (NOW) in my college years and had much experience in working with young women who were like-minded in fighting for women’s rights.  Those rights are tempered with major responsibilities and the book explores those.

Finding the ledger, hearing the true stories of the history of it from the real people who were involved in its origin was most inspiring.Real life is not always pretty.  Red Clay and Roses was my way of recording what the ledger truly represented in my mind.  The ending was bittersweet, and my only regret is that in the writing of the book, staying true to the story, I was unable to dedicate much upon the many positive effects of our history and of our progress away from that which was about to destroy us as a free society.

That really makes us think about the society and the various notions which can make life a difficult prospect for some, doesn’t it? I know you are now interested in reading the book. Grab a copy for your Amazon Kindle. The book is also available in various other formats like pdf, epub, etc. So you do not have to worry if you haven’t got Kindle. Moreover, a paperback version of the book will be available soon. Visit the following links for more information regarding the very same-




Barnes and Noble

Book Review: Red Clay and Roses by S.K. Nicholls

Red Clay and Roses by S.K. Nicholls

Red Clay and Roses is a historical fiction based on true stories, by S.K. Nicholls, majorly dating back to the period between 50’s and early 70’s. It is a story based on the lives of people, particularly women, of the small town of LaGrange and the circumstances that they deal with everyday, with the racism prevalent against the African-American citizens in Georgia, similar to the situation in many other Southern states, at the time when there was being seen a radical change in some areas of the country. However, the story starts in the year of 2012 and ends in the same year as well, but the entire basis of the story lies during the time when equality did not prevail and some relations could not succeed because of the racist notions of the society.

This is a tale, of love, loss, family, friends and the entire society and how concrete certain believes were etched in the mind of the people, because of what was familiar to them and what was made known to them by the previous generations.

Viewpoints regarding the book:-

1.The plot line is good which focuses on the lives of both fractions of the society during the period the book is set.

2. The characters are interesting and they would not bore you, until the very end. Once you get into the flow of the story, it is as if you want to know more and more and you would not be able to stop reading unless you have reached to a point where another segment of story starts.

3. The structure is quite confusing towards the beginning. It takes time for the reader to understand the significance of the events happening in the story. But every thing which would seem apart comes out to form a complete circle finally.

4. The emotional factor of the novel is good, you would feel a little sad at certain stances, and you would sympathize with the characters.

5. The division of the story is done quite cleverly and it is easy to jump from one part to another.

6. It is a sort of drama of the lives of the common folks. There are certain issues like rape, abortion, woman empowerment and taboo relationships, raised in the book and the writing is quite successful in putting forth the information regarding what the things were like back then.

7. The editing and grammar is such that you would have a nice reading experience.

8. The title of the novel is quite apt, creating an image in mind, which recurs in the story.

I would highly recommend this book to those who like reading about the lives of people and those who enjoy historical fiction for its facts and realities.

About the author (from goodreads):

Susan Koone Nicholls authored a Southern Fiction based on a true story, “Red Clay and Roses”, and has two other works in progress. She is an R.N. who lives in Orlando, Florida, with her husband, Greg. She was born, raised and educated in Georgia, where she also raised her family. She has three children, a stepson, and two grandchildren. Orphaned from her mother at an early age, she spent time in foster care and in a children’s group home in the North Georgia Mountains, The Ethyl Harpst Home.
You may reach her at, or visit her at

Note: I am glad to tell you that we will have a guest post by the author in which she discusses about the book, a little later. Do not miss it and definitely grab a copy of this book online, which would soon be available as a paperback also. For more information, you can contact the author at her blog or her e-mail id, as mentioned above.

Intolerance Haiku

the myths of today

intolerance against life lived

breaking social norms

* I have to confess.. I am not able to complete many haiku I begin to create nowadays and I tend to erase even those I ended up creating and didn’t like. I am more comfortable in writing the haiku related to nature or cultural symbols. This haiku is written in response of Carpe Diem # 237.