Rohinton Mistry, you are really lucky. Since you are in Canada, sitting pretty there you could give vent to your anger, righteous indignation, protest as also appeal to the Vice-Chancellor of Mumbai University who threatened with an ‘existential crisis’ cowered under the pressure of Shivsainiks and withdrew your book from the premises of the University to the delight and satisfaction of the so-called ‘Marathi-Manoos’- the Shivsainiks.
Since you are far away from India, you need not fear a threat to your life otherwise what would have happened to you about which the ‘little Thackeray’ – Adithya Thackeray has already made clear – a young chap aged 20 bestowed with ‘Marathi valour’. That the same fate of your book suffered at the hands of ‘little Thackeray’ and his followers – made a bonfire of its copies – the same fate would have befallen on you. Means you would have been roasted alive by this time. Let’s shower praises on God Almighty for your miraculous escape.
You must be knowing the harrowing days our world famous writers Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen, passing through these days. They are still in hiding need not tell you and and the latter atleast once in six months knocking on the doors of world’s largest democracy to give a fresh lease of life which she, Taslima is blessed with, in instalments. Her requests for permanent asylum in India always get rejected and please do not ask a citizen like me ‘why is it so’?
In Canada, you face no such problem you need not be in hiding, you need no protection from the govt with gun-wielding security guards peeping into your privacy.
Your book ‘Such a long journey’, I haven’t gone through yet and not felt like going through till the other day and now it has turned out to be my desire and decision to purchase it and to leaf through it. The ‘little Thackeray’, the grandson of Big Thackeray – Bal Thackeray – has thus turned out to be a great Advertising and Marketing Executive of your ‘ Such a long journey’ free of remuneration and rewards. Really lucky you are. In the coming days, copies of your work will journey through – a long journey – such a long journey – through out the length and width of India and the chances of further copies of it undertaking long journeys to other continents too. Best of luck Rohniton Mistry. You must be experiencing boundless delight and I am at a loss to know whether you are jumping with joy, yes, pain you will have, natural, when your work is being withdrawn from your Alma Mater, another matter.
Freedom of Speech and Expression, though enshrined in our constitution not always being followed in letter and spirit unfortunately.
Why? You know the answer and you have pointed out one of them : Parochialism. Parochialism is the hallmark of Shiva Sena, a narrow-minded communal party confined to Maharashtra only.
Countless of inncoents from across other States fell prey to its narrow-mindedness or ‘Son’s of the soil’ policy and countless falling prey to it even today. Many got killed, many maimed for life, many fled for life – all before the very eyes of the so-called rulers who at the top of their voices continue to preach the virtues of democratic ideals and virtually doing nothing to stop these fissiparous tendencies. Besides whenever elections are round the corner these rulers nurses no compunctions to seek alliance or help from this parochial elements. Secularism often turns out to be a commodity up for sale, its value depending upon the market prices prevailing as on date if Alan Paton’s renowned book ‘Cry, my beloved country’ comes to my mind at thiis particular moment I think it is quite natural.
Unlike Rohniton Mistry, a person, be he a celebrity in Maharashtra if dares to take on Shiv Sainiks airing his protest freely and courageoulsy contrary to their’s, imagine the plight awaiting him/her, something unimaginable. A celebrity will get protection, what about an ordinary citizen? Get doomed.
Aditya Thackeray who took up cudgels against Mistry’s book has not gone through it and he is not willing to flip through it even. Just a few lines however he read and that’s enough for him to arrive at a conclusion. A great chap. No doubt. He is a student of the same university- final year BA (History) student where Mistry also spent his days as a student. That which Rohniton Mistry couldn’t hand over to the university the little Thackeray and his cohorts could – a great name.
Nothing left to mention about or nothing left to feel about the great Vice-Chancellor who reportedly cowed down under the pressure of the great Marathi Manoos.
In Mistry’s concluding part of his letter to the Vice-Chancellor, he has taken the opportunity to quote from Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’..step back from the abyss or go over the edge. The most apt part however is a quote from Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali’ and I quote here ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high ; where knowledge is free ; where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls ; ….Into that heaven of freedom, my Father let my country awake.’
Best of luck, Mr. Rohinton Mistry.