Such a Long Journey (novel)

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Such a Long Journey
Such A Long Journey.jpg
First edition
Author Rohinton Mistry
Country Canada, India
Language English
Publisher McClelland and Stewart
Publication date
1 April 1991
Media type Print (Paperback and Hardback)
Pages 424 pp (paperback first edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-7710-6058-0 (first edition, paperback)
OCLC 23652180
Preceded by Tales from Firozsha Bag
Followed by A Fine Balance

Such a Long Journey is a 1991 novel by Rohinton Mistry. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and won several other awards. In 2010 the book made headlines when it was withdrawn from the University of Mumbai's English syllabus after complaints from the family of the Hindu nationalist politician Bal Thackeray.[1]

Plot introduction[edit]

Such a Long Journey takes place in Mumbai, Maharashtra, in the year 1971. The novel's protagonist is a hard-working bank clerk Gustad Noble, a member of the Parsi community and a devoted family man struggling to keep his wife Dilnavaz, and three children out of poverty. But his family begins to fall apart as his eldest son Sohrab refuses to attend the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology to which he has gained admittance and his youngest daughter, Roshan, falls ill. Other conflicts within the novel involve Gustad's ongoing interactions with his eccentric neighbours and his relationship with his close friend and co-worker, Dinshawji. Tehmul, a seemingly unimportant and mentally disabled character, is essential in Gustad's life, as he brings out the tender side of him and represents the innocence of life. A letter that Gustad receives one day from an old friend, Major Bilimoria, slowly draws him into a government deception involving threats, secrecy and large amounts of money. He then, begins the long journey, that sheds new light on all aspects of Gustad's personal and political life. The novel not only follows Gustad's life, but also India's political turmoil under the leadership of Indira Gandhi.

Reception[edit]

When it was published in 1991, it won the Governor General's Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, and the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award.[2] It was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize and for the Trillium Award. It has been translated into German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Japanese, and has been made into the 1998 film Such a Long Journey.

Withdrawal from Mumbai University's syllabus[edit]

Such a Long Journey was withdrawn from the syllabus of Mumbai University since it contained, in the perspective of some character in the book, discriminatory and derogatory remarks about Maharashtrians and abusive languages about Bal Thackeray, leader of Shiv Sena, a political party from Maharashtra. In the book, the character Dinshawji angrily recounts an incident with a dabbawala who's rude to him, stating "What to do with such low-class people? No manners, no sense, nothing. And you know who is responsible for this attitude — that bastard Shiv Sena leader who worships Hitler and Mussolini. He and his 'Maharashtra for Maharashtrians' nonsense. They won’t stop till they have complete Maratha Raj.…Wait till the Marathas take over, then we will have real Gandoo Raj."[3]

Aditya Thackeray, grandson of Bal Thackeray, a final-year Arts student at St. Xavier's College, complained to the vice chancellor that the book contains abusive language about his grandfather and the Maharashtrian community and demanded its withdrawal from the syllabus.

The book was prescribed for the second year Bachelor of Arts (English) in 2007-08 as an optional text, according to University sources. It was also confirmed that Dr. Rajan Welukar, University of Mumbai's Vice-Chancellor (V-C) used the emergency powers under Section 14 (7) of the Maharashtra Universities Act, 1994, to withdraw the book from the syllabus. Based on a complaint, the Board of Studies (English), which had recommended the book earlier, resolved that it must be withdrawn with effect from September 15.[1]

Following this incidence the book entered public debate. The teachers' union wanted the Vice Chancellor to defend academic freedom,[4][5] claiming that the book was selected for literary reasons. Their point of view was that the author, Rohinton Mistry, did not think poorly of Marathi-speakers, and that the passages were perspectives of a character in the book, namely Kapur.[6] The Chief Minister of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan (Member of Congress Party) stated that the book is "highly abusive and objectionable".[7] Former Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai University and Member of the Planning Commission of India Bhalchandra Mungekar stated that "I'm fully convinced, even giving the benefit of the doubt to the book being a piece of fiction, that some sentences are certainly objectionable...there is a difference between dissenting with the political and social philosophy of an individual or organisation, and abusing the individual by name".[8] Faculty have complained of pressure tactics being used to coerce their support of the vice chancellor's decision.[9] The book is unlikely to be reintroduced in the short term on account of possibility of law and order problems.[10] Mistry has also expressed disappointment in a statement regarding the withdrawal.[11][12]

Awards
Preceded by
Lives of the Saints
Governor General's Award for English language fiction recipient
1991
Succeeded by
The English Patient

Characters[edit]

Noble Family[edit]

  • Gustad Noble
  • Dilnavaz Noble
  • Sohrab Noble
  • Darius Noble
  • Roshan Noble

Gustad's Close Friends[edit]

  • Major Jimmy "Billiboy" Billimoria
  • Dinshawji
  • Malcom Saldanha

Khodadad Building Residents[edit]

  • Miss Kutpitia
  • Tehmul "Lungraa"
  • Mr. Rabadi (the "Dogwalla idiot")
  • Inspector Bamji
  • Mrs. Pastakia
  • Mr. Pastakia (depressed father-in-law of Mrs. Pastakia)

Other Characters[edit]

  • Ghulam Mohammed (Major Billimoria's accomplice)
  • Dr. Paymaster
  • Sidewalk Artist (paints the black wall)
  • Laurie Coutino (secretary of Parsi Bank, teased by Dinshawji as "Lorrie", Parsi slang for penis)
  • Mr. Madon (Manager of Parsi Bank)
  • Peerbhoy Paanwalla
  • Alamai "Domestic Vulture" (Dinshawji's wife, and later widow)
  • Nusli (Dinshawji's nephew and adopted son)

- Indira Gandhi (prime minister)

Release details[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Sena scion gets book withdrawn from syllabus, sparking protests". The Hindu (Chennai, India). October 12, 2010. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  2. ^ Malieckal, Bindu (2000). "Rohinton Mistry". In Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath (Ed.), Asian American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, pp. 219-28. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-30911-6.
  3. ^ Mistry, Rohinton (1991). Such a Long Journey. Random House Digital. pp. 72–72. ISBN 0-7710-6057-2. 
  4. ^ "Teachers union wants VC to defend academic freedom". The Times Of India. October 14, 2010. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Faculty to write to governor over dropped book". The Times Of India. October 13, 2010. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Free speech a long journey". October 31, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Chavan speaks the sena language on Mistry's book". The Times Of India. October 20, 2010. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  8. ^ "The spirit and autonomy of the university has been violated". The Times Of India. October 22, 2010. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Faculty cite pressure tactics in Mistry saga". The Times Of India. October 22, 2010. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Mistrys book unlikely in syllabus again". October 14, 2010. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Statement Against Shiv Sena Ban on Such A Long Journey". October 12, 2010. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  12. ^ Deshpande, Vinaya (October 20, 2010). "Rohinton Mistry protests withdrawal of book". The Hindu (Chennai, India). Retrieved October 31, 2010. 

External links[edit]