Gustad Noble, the protagonist of Such a Long Journey, is a well-meaning man with a highly developed sense of duty. Lesser men might well have become embittered by the losses that his family has incurred. Noble’s grandfather had a thriving furniture business; his father, a successful bookstore. Mismanagement by Noble’s dissolute uncle resulted in bankruptcy and the loss of everything the family had accumulated over the years. Though Noble sometimes recalls those earlier days of relative luxury, he tries to make the best of his modest circumstances.
As the novel opens, he is praising Ahura Mazda and contemplating his own good fortune. At fifty, Noble is healthy; his wife, Dilnavaz, is attractive, good-natured, and efficient; his son, Sohrab, has just been admitted to the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT); and both his younger son, Darius, and his daughter, Roshan, are intelligent, obedient children. Noble’s only worries are the stench outside his apartment building, caused by passersby urinating on the wall; the repression of the Bengalis in East Pakistan; and, more immediately, a letter from his old friend, Major Jimmy Bilimoris, asking Noble to make bank deposits that will provide relief for Bengali refugees.
That very day, things begin to go wrong. Sohrab announces that he no longer wants to go to ITT, and his frustrated father evicts him. Roshan develops a stomach disorder, and her parents cannot agree as to how to treat...
(The entire section is 441 words.)