Book Review : Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer by Cyrus Mistry
Book: Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer
Author: Cyrus Mistry
Publication: Aleph Book Company
Setting: Pre-Independent Bombay, 1942
Price: Click the link
Cyrus Mistry’s Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer is a beautifully knitted sad tale of a corpse bearer…Phiroze Elchidana
Cyrus Mistry, brother of Rohinton Mistry (born in 1952) was an Indian author (born in 1956). He has written plays, novels and short stories. His writing career started as a freelance journalist. His first novel The Radiance of Ashes was published in 2005. His other significant novels are The Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer, The Prospect of Miracles, and Passion Flower: Seven Stories of Derangement.
The Legacy of Rage and Doongaji House are his plays. He wrote Doongaji House in 1977 at the age of 21.
Today we are going to talk about his widely acclaimed novel Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer. He won DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2014 and Sahitya Academy Award in 2015 for this novel.
“Foolish to make plans:
O how foolish To dream, presume, aspire. . .
Every calculation you so painstakingly undertook
Is flawed. The numbers simply refuse to add up
To anything but nought. . .
Time flashes past you.
A Man’s life is as enduring
As a lit matchstick, and just as
“Oh yes, I’ve said it once,
Say it again:
’Tis foolish to make plans,
To dream, presume, aspire. . . You know nothing turns out quite the way
You had hoped.
Nothing, Oh, nothing ever does.”
Phiroze Elchidana is a Khandhia, a Parsi corpse bearer. His father Framroze was a priest. But Phiroze does not choose the path his father has chosen for him. He proves his failure in his studies and falls in love with a Khandhia girl Sepideh.
He married Sepideh, ignoring the angry eye of his father, and became a Khandhia, a corpse bearer. He had to carry the dead body along with others in a heavy Bier.
But Seppy dies soon after, leaving Phiroze all alone in this world except with a daughter and a heavy burden of loneliness.
The novel is divided into three parts:
Part one: Present Tense
Part two: Echoes of a Living Past
Part three: Future Imperfect
These parts are again subdivided into several chapters.
Ostracization– The novel upholds the community of Paris corpse bearers who are neglected, marginalized. They beloned to the Khandhai community. Tragic life of Phiroze as a corpse bearer is highlighted here.
” The smell of sickness and pus endures; the reek of extinction never leaves the nostril.”
Love and loss– Love between Phiroze and Sepidah like a beautiful fragrance wafts through the novel. Though Sepideh dies very soon and the nostalgic bereavement on the part of Phiroze lingers throughout the novel.
” But now, Seppy’s no longer with me…And even in dreams, I don’t see her so often. Dull nausea swelled and passes as it did every morning when I woke to the certain knowledge of being alone.”
But he believes that Seppy is somewhere there waiting for him. That is his only solace.
” I know she is still out there waiting for me. That I will meet her again.”
What should I tell? The novel leaves a mixed impression on me. Sometimes I get lost and dejected with the monotonous meandering of the word afterward. It takes a dip toil on my part to grasp the essence of the novel. Such a dull head I’m here. I mean it.
Anyway, the lingering melancholy like the twittering of a bird echoed long after even when I stop my journey through the alleys, the tower of the silence of 1942 Bombay.
“The longer the human soul swims in that pool of faith, soaking in the effulgence of its own dreams and longings, the more its need for rationality recedes, its very preoccupation with reality. Excuses are made for every frustration or impediment that doesn’t quite merge into the perfect blueprint of miraculous resolution already etched into one’s hopes and prayers: thus, there’s never any scope for disappointment. The person becomes blind to everything but the bewitchment of his own beliefs.”
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