There are so many books to read. It will always be the case I guess. And then there are some books which you never thought you would read and end up reading them and loving them with a passion. There are also some books which you discover a little late and then wonder why you didn’t discover them earlier. For me, “Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” by Cyrus Mistry is one such book.
It is about the world that we ignore. It is about societies and communities we overlook because it suits us fine to do so. And this has been going on for ages and the book only covers a portion of that discrimination.
“Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” is about a marginalized society in the Parsi Community – that of the corpse bearers, known as the Khandias, the untouchables of the community. The son of a Parsi priest, Phiroze Elchidana, falls in love with Sepideh, the daughter of an ageing khandia. He marries her and agrees to change to a khandia. That in short is the plot of the book, and yet there are so many layers to it.
For one, the book is set on the verge of Pre-Independence India and in Bombay, a city bustling with activity and a community so small and so ridden with their customs and traditions, like any other community. Mistry with his writing has brought to life the very core of life – its hypocrisy, and the double standards we live by.
The writing is slow and takes its time to reveal what lies underneath. The characters behave the way they are meant to – from Phiroze to his father to Sepideh; there is this edge and restraint, both in good measure to them. I also think that comes from Mistry knowing the Parsi community inside out, of course, so you would expect a story by him based on the caste structure practiced there, with all the finer details. More so, because the story is inspired from a true story, it rings and stays with the reader a lot more than it would have otherwise.
To me, “Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” not only brings to light the marginalized structure of the society but also, somehow makes you think and connect with lives at a deeper level. It is a book which will make you seek more books written on such topics and that says a lot about the author and his writing.