I wanted to follow up my earlier post with a few things I had in mind, but could not fit in, due to lack of context and contemplation.
The first is in the name of a principal character – Dina Dalal. This is almost too perfect a nomination, yet doesn’t sound jarring or unnatural at all. In Parsi, Dina (as I found searching on the web), means judged. However, the Hindu connotation (deen) is mired in poverty or lack, just like her life. She then becomes an agent, or a dalal, for an export company to counter her situation. How much relevant could it get. Nicely done!
A character I missed was Monkey Man (his real name we never know). This is the guy whose hand is seen in the cover of the book, balancing a little girl atop a pole. You’ll have to read the book to find out more of the Monkey Man’s and the little girl’s fate, but the innocence of the photograph intended to garner pathos is utterly misleading – for the hand turns out to be that of a murderer. A murderer that society created when it took away the poor man’s livelihood and forced him into things he’d rather not have ventured into. But not all wronged become murderers, means there must have been something, a streak of madness, in him to make him cross the line. Monkey Man is another of the bizarre characters that the book is littered with. Bizarre in the absurdness of what one does to earn a living, and in the extremeness of their actions. Some of the others are Hair Collector Rajaram, Shankar the Worm and Beggarmaster. Perhaps I should also include Ibrahim the rent collector and Vasantrao Valmik the proofreader turned orator turned lawyer.
I’d like to conclude with a couple of significant quotes that I spotted. Both are from Dina’s younger life, in the earlier parts of the book (since I got too engrossed later to jot down any specifics).
The first is an excellent use of a metaphor:
“There was no such thing as perfect privacy, life was a perpetual concert-hall recital with a captive audience.”
The second is after the untimely demise of Dina’s husband, when she’s trying to regain her foothold on life:
“The road towards self-reliance could not lie through the past.”
I think I might hang this one up in a frame in my study.