Swimming Lessons and other stories from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry : Part II

Continued from Part I

Through two other stories, Kersi tells us more of his life. In “Of White Hairs and Cricket”, we see a silent, growing rift between him and his father. Every Sunday, Kersi’s father asks him to remove white hairs from his head using a pair of tweezers, a task that Kersi detests. He recollects earlier days, when Sunday mornings meant his father taking the Baag children to play cricket in the Marine Drive maidaan. Kersi remembers how his father had “taught him to be tough”, how once he had cheered Kersi’s valiant fielding on stopping a ball from reaching the boundary with his bare shin, how he — rummaging among classifieds — dreamed of getting a new job, how Kersi had wanted to give him a hug when his father had suggested him to go to America, saying “Somehow we’ll get the money to send you. I’ll find a way.” Disillusioned, Kersi walks out on his father, shunning hair-plucking duties. Later, overcome by guilt on seeing his friend’s (Viraf) discomposed father, a remorseful Kersi notices for the first time his father’s vulnerability, how he looked “tired, shoulders drooping and with a gait lacking confidence”. The illness of Viraf’s father opens his eyes. Yet he is unable to express his love and gratefulness to his father. This is the first of the three stories narrated by Kersi.

In the second, the title “Lend Me Your Light” inspired by a Tagore poem, Kersi is a little older, having freshly immigrated to Canada. It’s a story of degeneration of childhood friendship between Jamshed and his own brother, Percy. Jamshed, from a wealthy family, is in a socially different class than the brothers. He immigrates to the States around the same time as Kersi goes to Canada. The friendship between Jamshed and Percy, built in childhood on the shallow foundation of records and toys, cracks under the differentiating weights of their social outlooks on growing up. Jamshed turns into a crass bourgeois, venomously critical of India in a showy, superficial way. Kersi wonders why this is so, why Jamshed refuses to enjoy his visits to Bombay although his situation in life had changed. Percy grows up to be a social worker, devoting himself to community work in a small village. He is no longer keen to meet Jamshed, whose presence irritates and embarrasses him. Kersi, to whom Jamshed was merely a childhood acquaintance, is himself thrown off by a scathing letter from Jamshed criticizing Bombay after his visit. Later, during his own visit to Bombay, Kersi is unhappy to discover the truth about Bombay, that it indeed was “dirtier than ever”, just as Jamshed had mentioned. He had become unused to it. He compares it to a soldier’s experience in the trenches after being away from the lines for a while. But he does not understand Jamshed’s disdainful attitude. Eventually, the brothers sever all ties with Jamshed, unable to bear his “soul sapping” presence in their lives.

Part III

3 thoughts on “Swimming Lessons and other stories from Firozsha Baag by Rohinton Mistry : Part II

  1. tahira

    the basic theme is cultural identity in all of his poems .he also talks about the conflicts in religious doctrines .The parsi community torn between the old ways and the new .

    Reply

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