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Family Matters Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

As the title suggests, Family Matters is a story about relationships. The central character in the book is Nariman Vakeel, an elderly Parsi widower. Nariman lives in a spacious flat in an apartment building in Bombay, along with his unmarried stepddaughter, Coomy Contractor, and his stepson Jal Contractor, who is also single. Nariman is a retired English professor, a kindly man whose students remember him with affection. However, because they blame him for their mother’s tragic death, Nariman’s stepchildren loathe him so much that even though he adopted them legally, they refuse to use his name, though they are perfectly willing to share his home.

As Nariman’s health fails and his memory becomes unreliable, Coomy avenges herself on him by systematically humiliating him. She forbids Nariman to take his usual walks around the neighborhood; she even puts him on a schedule for visiting the bathroom. Then he breaks his ankle, and Coomy and Jal dump him unceremoniously at the small, two-bedroom apartment where Nariman’s daughter, Roxana Chenoy, lives with her husband, Yezad, and their two sons, Murad and Jehangir. Supposedly, Nariman is to remain there only until his cast comes off. However, when Coomy deliberately damages the ceiling of his bedroom, it becomes obvious that she does not intend ever to let him return to his home.

By contrast, Roxana is always kind to her father. Though she may weep in private, she never lets him see how exhausted she is. Her sons love their grandfather and like having him near; nine-year-old Jehangir becomes his constant companion. However, Yezad resents having his household disrupted, and because Coomy and Jal are not there to take the blame, he lashes out at his wife and his sons. Moreover, Nariman’s presence soon pushes the family to the brink of financial disaster. The pittance Jal contributes to Nariman’s keep is not enough to feed the invalid properly, much less to buy his medicine. In desperation, Yezad decides his only option is to ensure his own promotion to store manager by persuading his high-principled employer, Vikram Kapur, to go into politics, as he has long threatened to do. Reasoning that an...

(The entire section is 522 words.)