Rohinton Mistry Tales from Firozsha Baag Introduction

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(Short Story Criticism)

Tales from Firozsha Baag Rohinton Mistry

Indian-born Canadian short-story writer and novelist.

The following entry presents criticism on Mistry's short story collection Tales from Firozsha Baag (1987) from 1989 through 2001.

Published in 1987, Tales from Firozsha Baag is a collection of eleven interrelated stories that explore the lives of several residents in a Bombay apartment complex. In the volume, Mistry particularly focuses on the Parsi, or Parsee, community, a small religious minority that traces its roots to Zorostrianism and ancient Persia. By examining the Parsi culture through a combination of sympathy and criticism, Mistry analyzes the conflicts that arise among Parsi individuals both in Indian society, where they are often excluded by the predominant Hindu and Muslim populations, and in Western nations.

Plot and Major Characters

Tales from Firozsha Baag chronicles the experiences of the residents of a Bombay apartment complex known as Firozsha Baag. In “The Exercisers,” the young protagonist defies his parents and their spiritual advisor by dating a woman who is not a Parsi, while Dualat of “Condolence Visit” shocks her neighbors by departing from religious custom and refusing to mourn her husband according to Parsi tradition. To suggest each character's mental anguish, Mistry incorporates elements of mysticism and surrealism in his stories: the lonely Parsi maid of “The Ghost of Firozsha Baag” has a sexual relationship with a spirit, while a mentally unbalanced woman imprisons her neighbor's child in a bird cage in “The Paying Guests.” A few stories in the volume explore the immigrant experience. In the final story of the collection, “Swimming Lessons,” one of the children mentioned in an earlier story, Kersi, has grown up and emigrated to Canada. A budding writer, he has written a book of stories about his childhood in Firozsha Baag. When he sends his book back home, his parents are upset by his perspective on Indian life and worry that he is not happy in Canada. In fact, Kersi is lonely, reminiscing about his childhood, and having sexual fantasies about the women taking swimming lessons with him at an indoor pool.

Major Themes

Tales from Firozsha Baag largely focuses on the cultural identity and challenges of faith experienced by the residents of Firozsha Baag. Several characters in the collection reject Parsi tradition and embrace secular, more modern customs, as in “The Exercisers” and “The Condolence Visit.” Others struggle to maintain their faith in light of religious doubt and other formidable challenges. In this way Mistry explores a community torn between the old ways and the new. He also illuminates the relationship between the sexes, which is often determined by religious and cultural conventions. In stories such as “Auspicious Occasions,” women are relegated to subordinate roles in relationships and are forced to sacrifice their own autonomy and ambitions in favor of societal approval and harmonious familial relationships. Alienation is...

(The entire section is 711 words.)