September 25, 2020
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Such A Long Journey

'The Relevant Passages'

Some of the excerpts from the Booker-nominated novel that seem to have first given an opportunity to Aditya Thackeray and now Ashok Chavan to take offence

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'The Relevant Passages'

When it was published in 1991, Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey won Canada's Governor General's Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, and the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award. It was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize and for the Trillium Award. It has been translated into German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Japanese, and has been made into a film in 1998 under the same name. The book has been part of Mumbai University's second year BA curriculum since 2007. Bal Thackeray's grandson Aditya Thackeray had admitted that he had not read the novel but was shown the "relevant passages". The same relevant passages were also presumably shown to Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan who, too, has admitted to not have read the book. After a quick scan we have been able to come up with the following "relevant passages" that may have offended the fragile sensibilities of Aditya Thackeray and Ashok Chavan

“Believe me,” said Dinshawji, “she [Indira Gandhi] is a shrewd woman, these are vote-getting tactics. Showing the poor she is on their side. Saali always up to some mischief. Remember when her pappy was Prime Minister and he made her president of Congress Party? At once she began encouraging the demands for a separate Maharashtra. How much bloodshed, how much rioting she caused. And today we have that bloody Shiv Sena, wanting to make the rest of us into second-class citizens. Don’t forget, she started it all by supporting the racist buggers." [Page 38-39]

What kind of life was Sohrab going to look forward to? No future for minorities, with all these fascist Shiv Sena politics and Marathi language nonsense. It was going to be like the black people in America— twice as good as the white man to get half as much. [Page 55]

'He turned and slipped into my seat! Insult to injury! What to do with such low-class people [the dabbawalas of Mumbai]? No manners, no sense, nothing. And you know who is responsible for this attitude — that bastard Shiv Sena leader who worships Hitler and Mussolini. He and his "Maharashtra for Maharashtrians" nonsense. They won't stop till they have complete Maratha Raj. [Page 73]

Probably some rubbish that had been foisted on the poor fellow, he assumed, remembering the time the Shiv Sena had recruited him to distribute racist pamphlets aimed against minorities in Bombay. They had promised him a Kwality Choc-O-Bar if he did a good job. [Page 86]

There was report after report of the citizen's generous support for the fighting men: about an eighty-year-old peasant who traveled to New Delhi, clutching her two gold wedding bangles, which she presented to Mother India [Indira Gandhi] for the war effort (some newspapers reported it as Mother Indira, which did not really matter — the line between the two was fast being blurred by the Prime Minister's far-sighted propagandists, who saw its value for future election campaigns). . . .

Of course, in the newsreels [Of the 1971 war], no mention was ever made of dutiful Shiv Sena patrols and motley fascists who roamed city streets with stones at the ready, patriotically shattering windows that they deemed inadequately blacked-out. Or the unlucky individuals mistaken for enemy agents and beaten up with great relish by personal enemies. (Pages 297-98)

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