Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
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...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Rohinton Mistry was born on July 3, 1952, into the Parsi community in Bombay. The Parsi are a small ethnic minority in India whose ancestors originally came from Iran centuries ago. During British rule over India, which ended just five years before Mistry was born, the Parsi had relatively high status and identified with the British. After Indian independence their situation became more difficult, and many of them emigrated.
Mistry became part of the emigration in 1975, the year he turned twenty-three. He followed his wife-to-be, Freny Elavia, to Toronto, Canada, and found work there in a bank. Before leaving India he had attended the University of Bombay, obtaining a degree in mathematics and economics, but he was more interested in music, performing as a folksinger in the style of Bob Dylan and even releasing an album.
Unable to pursue his musical career in Canada, Mistry eventually turned to literature, studying part time for a degree in English and philosophy at the University of Toronto and beginning to write short stories. In 1985, he obtained a Canada Council grant, which enabled him to leave his job at the bank and write full time. He also became a Canadian citizen and remained in Canada, though his writing continued to be almost entirely about India.
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Rohinton Mistry was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, on July 3, 1952, the second of four children of Behram Mistry, an employee of an advertising agency, and Freny Jhaveri Mistry. The family were members of Bombay’s Parsi community. Rohinton was educated at the Villa Theresa Primary School and St. Xavier High School. During his high school years, he learned to play the guitar and the harmonica, and he became a member of a band that played British and American folk-rock songs. At nineteen, while attending a music school, Mistry struck up an acquaintance with Freny Elavia, who would eventually become his wife.
Both Mistry and Elavia continued their schooling at the University of Bombay. Mistry studied mathematics and economics at St. Xavier’s College, graduating with a B.S. degree. Meanwhile, Freny Elavia, who was now his fiancé, had gone to Toronto, Canada, for a year’s visit with relatives. In 1975, Mistry immigrated to Canada, became a citizen, and married Elavia.
The couple settled in Toronto. Mistry found employment as a clerk at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, where he eventually become head of customer services. Mistry also attended night classes, first at York University and then at the University of Toronto, where he concentrated on literature and philosophy. There he became familiar with the works of the Irish writer James Joyce and those of the nineteenth century British novelists Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope, authors to whom Mistry would later be compared by reviewers. In 1983, Mistry received a B.A. from the University of Toronto. During this period, Mistry’s wife, Freny, had also been furthering her education. In 1981, she earned a B.A. from the University of Toronto. The following year, she received a bachelor of education degree from the same school and was promptly employed as a high school teacher in nearby Brampton.
Although Mistry had done a little writing while he was at the University of Toronto, he had not submitted works for publication. However, at Freny’s urging, he decided to enter a short story in the 1983 Hart House Literary Contest. For his subject matter, Mistry turned to what he knew best: life among the Parsis in Bombay. His story “One Sunday” earned him first prize and $250, and the following year, “Auspicious Occasion,” which was set in the same apartment house as its predecessor, again won the Hart House competition. With the encouragement of the well-known Canadian writer Mavis Gallant, who had been one of the judges for the contest, Mistry continued to turn out short stories and to submit them for...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Though his fiction contains some lighthearted scenes, Rohinton Mistry is too much a realist to be optimistic about human existence. His characters are subject to disease, old age, and eventual death: that is simply a given. However, they also live in fear of each other. In Mistry’s India, a knock on the door or a riot on the street outside can spell doom for someone who has never harmed anyone else. Although his novels stress the need for political reforms and for creating bridges between religious groups, they also emphasize a spiritual truth: In the final analysis, human beings have control only over their own behavior.