This year’s Jaipur Literary Festival has again been an eye-opener towards many authors and a lot of books that I am going to read throughout the rest of the year. Though, it was my second year at JLF this time but I have made it a ritual to buy and read the book that wins the DSC prize that is announced during the festival. I treat the book as a souvenir from that particular year from JLF. Last year I bought Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis and this year it was Cyrus Mistry’s Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer that won the DSC Prize. But before I start writing about the book, I would like to tell you that this book has been written by author Cyrus Mistry and he is nowhere related to Tata Industries.
Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer is based on a true story and is a poignant read that is set up in the Bombay of pre-independence times. You will be hooked to the story of Phiroze Elchidana right from the first word of his story. Phiroze is a son of a highly respectful Parsi priest but he is a corpse bearer himself all because he fell in love with Sepideh, the daughter of an ageing khandhia (untouchable). After marrying his love, Phiroze now belongs to a community that deals with corpses, performing their purification rites and rituals and taking them to the Tower of Silence. Though, it is an extremely noble service that these khandhias perform but they are abhorred by Parsis.
Sepideh (Seppy) dies after a couple of years post her marriage with Phiroze leaving him with their daughter and lots of memories and a great amount of sorrow. Phiroze reminiscences about his relationship with Seppy time and again in the book but life has to move on. Cyrus Mistry has poignantly painted a portrait of almost invisible Parsi corpse bearer community through his words. Their daily activities, their drunken nights, their constant banter with each other and with Buchia, their local contractor too, who is too indifferent to them but is always attentive towards the Parsi nobles and Punchayat trustees.
Each sentence, each character, each dialogue of the book has been intricately crafted by Cyrus Mistry. In 247 pages, he takes you to the world which doesn’t exist for most of the humans but is still there and has its sets of rules, joys, sorrows and frustrations. You empathise with Phiroze all throughout the book and understand his plight. Human nature has been portrayed through words as close as to the reality. This book is not fast-paced and is not meant to be. It has to be devoured slowly and steadily to be able to relate to the characters and the story. The conflicts, sense of love, belonging and loss sprinkled with dry humour and the dilemma in which the characters of the book face time and again are the highlights of the book.
Book Source : Personal Copy
Publisher : Aleph Book Company
Genre : Fiction
Price : ₹ 495/-