Rohinton Mistry spent his first twenty-three years in predominantly Hindu Bombay, where as a member of the Parsi community, he was considered an outsider. The Parsis had fled Persia in the eighth century and, as followers of Zoroaster, were looked at askance by Indian traditionalists. They were open to modern technology and education and tended to be successful in business and industry. They also engaged in a rite in which the bodies of their newly deceased were brought to a mountaintop to be devoured by vultures.
Mistry’s youthful interests were in music, mainly the protest songs of Bob Dylan, and he performed in small nightclubs while earning a B.A. in mathematics and economics from the University of Bombay. In 1975, Mistry and his wife, Freny, moved to Canada, where career opportunities were more promising. The Indian economy favored engineers, doctors, and lawyers, specialities that held little interest for Mistry. The young couple settled in a suburb of Toronto, and Mistry became a bank clerk. Even after earning a promotion, he found that the job lacked the stimulation he needed, so he began taking night classes at the University of Toronto in subjects that interested him, earning a second B.A. in English and philosophy in 1984.
Mistry found that the most exciting and challenging aspect of his course work was the written assignments. At his wife’s urging, he submitted a short story to a literary competition and not only won the Hart House Prize that year but the next also. Later, a Canadian government grant allowed him the time and money to hone his craft and quit his job.
Though Mistry was born into a moderately affluent family, his writings most often focus on the lives of ordinary people who battle impoverishment in the teeming streets of Bombay. The authenticity of the portrait he paints of the city he left and only visits on occasion has been brought into question, but Mistry feels that all memory is interwoven...
(The entire section is 801 words.)