Indians Abroad

Rohinton Mistry

Famous Novelist and Author
Born On 3 July 1952
Born In Mumbai, India
Nationality Canadian

Rohinton Mistry is an Indian born Canadian author who is famous for his short stories and novels. Born in a Parsee community, his writings are heavily influenced by his religious, social and cultural views. Even though he is settled in Canada, it is his upbringing in Mumbai that reflects in all his writings. The distinct Mumbai culture, particularly the Parsee way of life, the people of the city and even the politics of India are major themes in his novels. His novels, such as 'Family Matters', 'A Fine Balance' and 'Such a Long Journey', were shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize. His novels and short stories have been widely appreciated and were also bestowed with numerous awards and recognition. For instance, he has received the Annual Contributors' Prize from the Canadian Fiction Magazine, the Common Wealth Writers Prize for his novel 'Such a Long Journey', and the Giller Prize for his work 'A Fine Balance'. Mistry is the elder brother of Cyrus, a writer and playwright.

Early Life
Rohinton Mistry was born in Bombay or present day Mumbai, India, in 1952, in a Parsee family. In his late teens he joined a music school to learn music theory and composition. It was here that he met Freny Elavia who would later become his wife. Mistry was quite good at folk music and would often give musical performances. At this stage he even wanted to pursue a career as a musician. Initially he was not aware of his skill in writing and so he didn't opt to study literature. But since neither pure science nor medicine and engineering interested him, he instead pursued for a degree in mathematics and economics from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. Two years later, in 1975, when he was twenty-three, Mistry migrated to Canada. Soon after going there he married his girlfriend who had moved there a year before. In Canada, he initially worked as a clerk in the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, but, after three years, he and his wife, joined studies at the University of Toronto, and earned his graduation in English and Philosophy. It was during his university days in Canada that he showed a growing interest towards writing and even started to pen several short stories, which were published in several literary magazines. Two of his stories, which were published in Hart House Review, received the Hart House literary prize. He became the first person to win two such prizes. He still worked at the bank and it was only after 1985 that he took to writing full time.

His Parsee roots have had a strong influence on his growth and development as a writer and his works mostly deal with the pathos and culture of the Parsees in India, specifically Mumbai. His writings give a glimpse into the life of the people of his community and their experiences as a minority in a highly diverse society. His glorious journey as a full-fledged writer started with the publication of a collection of short stories 'Tales from Firozsha Baag', in 1987, in Canada. The book was critically acclaimed and became so popular that, in 1992, it was published in the UK. 'Tales from Firozsha Baag' consists of eleven interrelated short stories, narrating the lives of people in an apartment complex in Mumbai. This collection includes his most famous short story 'Swimming Lessons', which is also the most anthologized of all his short stories.

Rohinton Mistry's first novel, 'Such a Long Journey', was published in 1991, to critical acclaim. In 1998, the novel was made into a film by the Canadian director Sturla Gunnarsson. His second novel, 'A Fine Balance', was published in 1995. This novel too was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. 'A Fine Balance' was adapted for the stage and performed at the Hampstead Theater in 2006 and again in 2007. In fact this novel is considered to be the best work of Mistry. In 2002, he published his third novel 'Family Matters' which was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Awards And Achievements
His first short story, 'One Sunday' published in 1983 won him the First Prize in the Hart House Literary Contest. The next year he won the same prestigious prize for another of his short story 'Auspicious Occasion'. In 1985, the Canadian Fiction Magazine honored him with the Annual Contributors' Award for his contributions to the magazine as well as to English literature. His novel 'Such a Long Journey' was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Trillium Award. It also won the Governor General's Award, the Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book. 'A Fine Balance', won him the Giller Prize as well as the Commonwealth Writers Prize once again. 'Family Matters', his third novel was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

1952: Rohinton Mistry was born in Mumbai
1973: Obtained his degree in mathematics and economics from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai
1975: He migrated to Canada
1982: Earned his degree in English and Philosophy from the University of Toronto
1991: Won the Governor Generals award for his novel 'Such a Long Journey'
1995: Received the Giller Prize for the novel 'A Fine Balance'
1996: The Faculty of Arts at Ottawa awarded Mistry an honorary doctorate
2002: Honored with Kiriyama Specific Rim Book Prize for his recent work 'Family Matters'