Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Rohinton Mistry's Tales from Firosha Baag

Here is your discussion forum for Rohinton Mistry's Tales from Firosha Baag. Please post your presentation slides, questions, observations, information about the cultural background and anything else you find of interest in connection with this collection of short stories.


11 comments:

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    2. I would like to dive into the aspect of social harmony within the Parsi community in and outside of the Baag’s in Mumbai. As was discussed in today’s presentation (group 2) and group 1’s discussion on Tuesday, social harmony and collective interaction is a driving force for interaction within the Parsi community in Firozsha Baag.

      Many of my family members live in the Baag’s in Mumbai, but most of them have left and spread out over North America, predominantly within Canada and the United States. However, the concept of social harmony had carried into life in the West and is incredibly ingrained within familial dynamics and social structures.

      As group 2 mentioned today, within the Baag’s it is unwanted to engage in discourse of any kind. This was illuminated within the short story, “The Paying Guests.” Instead of addressing issues of tension, characters stay quiet and act with submissive tendency. Such features of communication fuel the situation with angst and deeply engrained dysfunction. Instead of addressing such discord we may observe a sense of falsified engagement, as everyone pretends things are okay.

      It is import to understand that this behavior is a result of the Zoroastrian philosophy itself, as the basic principles as discussed (good words, good thoughts and good deeds) act as a tenant of assignation amongst Parsi peoples. Parsi’s do not like to speak ill of people, and do not regularly voice distain for any individual. This philosophy has good intentions indeed, however the effects of this philosophy within close quarters of human construct may hold detrimental repercussions.

      Outside the Baag’s life is less closely intertwined. However familial structure holds true to the examples given above.

      Due to personal experience, I can tell you that social harmony hold high clout and regard amongst Canadian Parsi’s. In the family setting apprehensions run high, as they do in all humanistic social interaction. However, due to the fundamental principles of good words, good thoughts and good deeds, a lack of expression for one’s true angst and turmoil is apparent. This ultimately leads to progressive underlying strain and distaste amongst family members as there is little room for authentic expression of one’s emotions.

      The Parsi way of life is unique through culture, tradition, story and community dynamics and interaction.

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  3. I thoroughly enjoyed your group presentation(s), Nauvme. The insights you were able to give us through your knowledge and experience of life within the Parsi community greatly enriched - for me - all eleven of Rohinton Mistry's stories. Your group's 'forward' gave the second group's 'afterward' far more meaning with respect to the author's insights into human behaviour where people of similar beliefs (unlike most Canadians) live in confined quarters in a more densely populated city than most of us have ever experienced or imagined. That those same social mores continue to act as behaviour determinants to the spreading immigrant population speak to the depth of their inculcation within the community. As well, you have addressed the problems that can arise from not being able to openly acknowledge one's individualism. That gives me the chance to pose a question in fear of not having time later. On page 168, Nariman, in telling the story of Sarosh/Syd, defines for the boys the differences between models of a Canadian 'mosaic' society and the American 'melting pot' ideal. Given the negative influence of Jamshed's metamorphosis, do you (or anyone in your groups) believe Mistry is effecting a comparison of North American cultures and their influences on immigrant societies (like the Parsi one). On the experience of Kersi Boyce as himself?

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  4. Before the presentations, I felt almost a bit lost while reading the 11 stories. But your presentations were so informative and interesting that it put a lot more meaning into the stories for me. I knew next to nothing about Parsi cultures and traditions, and the idea of a baag. Ideally, I had hoped that the book would have informed me more about this but for what the book lacked, the presentations really filled in. Thank you for that. I was really interested in the analysis that Group 2 gave about the story of The Collectors. When I read it, I took it for its "face value" and lacked the understanding of what was underneath it all. The idea that many of the aspects in the story that it was a scattering of cultures and relationships made a lot of sense to me. I also agreed with the analysis of The Paying Guests and Kashmira's parrot being a symbol for herself. Though I question if the placement of the baby in the cage, if replacing the parrot was her way of saying that she felt as if it was the baby that finally pushed her out of the cage/the apartment. Further, I am not exactly sure about what the significance of the peppers with the baby was. Does anyone else have any ideas about this?

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  5. Hi, Nicole....Opinion only on the parrot/baby in the cage/green peppers, but I'll put it out there anyway. I agree that Korshedbai's parrot can be seen as a symbol of herself. That concept is certainly in keeping with Nauvme's comments about the detrimental aspects of a Parsi life in confined quarters (the Baag) as well as the social confinement (or lack of individual expression) that can be attached to the Parsi tenets of 'good words, good thoughts, good deeds'. But the fact remains that the cage is empty, the parrot missing. My reading of it (in conjunction with Najamai's search the story behind Korshedbai's and Ardesar's lonely existence, pg 137), is that Korshedbai's parrot cage is symbolic of the life she hoped to have (rich in love even in a caged existence) and the emptiness she found when: a) her beloved parrot, Pestonji, died, or b) she was forced to cut family ties, or c) their (only) Canadian son rejected the presence of his parents in his adopted country (or all of the above). She has an innate fear of being 'pecked to death'; there is definitely a screw loose; she sets herself on a path of retribution (where she is herself the 'pecker') from which she will not retreat. Korshedbai becomes more and more disconnected from reality, and in the end, when she places the baby in the cage (babies symbolize pure love to a good number of women), she is replacing the love(s) she has lost. By holding the green peppers over the baby, she is following the dictates of the dream she had of Pestonji (pg 143) shredding and throwing detritus across the shared veranda in a fit of rebellion against his usually ordered life. The fact the Korshedbai is speaking to the baby as she would to a parrot is indicative of her total dissociation from reason - but is also a metaphor for her lack of ability to express herself to other people in words.

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  6. Sorry....I'd also really like to hear anyone else's take on this.

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  7. I love “Exercisers” theme about traps and I wanted to apply that theme to the other story which I analyzed, “Lend Me Your Light.”
    Percy’s job demonstrates his sense of justice and his willingness to serve others. He cares a lot about what he is doing and the people he is helping. Sadly, he is trapped; he is trapped in a world that he willing chose to enter. He took the bait of helping farmers in a system created and dominated by corrupt money lenders. These men have the power and use it to destroy his work, but Percy cannot give up his moral crusade. Even after they burn down his office and, more significantly, kill his partner, he vows to return to the village to keep helping the farmers. He knows he’s trapped and that the criminals have the upper hand but he doesn’t let it stop him from doing what he thinks (and knows) is right.
    Jamshed is also trapped, although he might not see it that way. Unlike Percy, who has nothing to account for the way he is and what he is doing with his life, Jamshed is trapped in a life of privilege. He is arrogant, entitled, selfish and ignorant because his parents were rich and he grew up spoiled. He is trapped in a world where superficial is more important than sincere. He is trapped in the worldview that America is the only good place to live and he proudly shreds his Indian identity to take up an American one. He is ignorant about this trap but given the opportunity to leave – which he could do easily because he frequently goes back to India – he wouldn’t; that’s how deep into the trap he is.
    Lastly is Kersi. I think that Kersi isn’t stuck in a trap, unlike nearly all of the other characters in the collection of stories. In the last story we discover that he is the storyteller so maybe his posterior position lends itself to writing critically about cultural traps which the others cannot see. After all, this story is actually written by him from some unknown time in the future. He leaves India but not in rebellion; he tries to fit into a new country and new culture with some success; his trip home is disenchanting but doesn’t make him hate his country. He lives outside the trap, which makes him an excellent choice for a narrator.

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  8. Here's some of the research I have on the cultural background to Tales From Firosha Baag. I found a lot of this information helpful in understanding the novel and I think it gives some good context as to why some of the characters in the novels do what they do.

    Navroz Bag

    Here we have a picture of the entrance gate to the Navroz Bag in Mumbai, India. Navroz Bag is very much like the Firozsha Baag that Rohinton Mistry’s novel takes place in
    Baugs are gated communities of Parsi people that are located throughout India. Baugs are very distinct from the rest of Indian society as they contain tight-knit Parsi communities living within them, that put a large emphasis on the continuation of Zoroastrian traditions and ways of life.
    Baugs tend to be very quiet, peaceful and clean places compared to most other areas in India. The quality of life within the Baags is also much better than the majority of the rest of India and could be likened to Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood
    This is a picture of Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world with an estimated population of 1 million
    As you can see, the disparity in quality of living is pretty vast
    The people living in Dharavi live in extreme poverty and the people living have suffered through multiple epidemics and natural disasters



    The Significance of Prayer

    Prayer plays a very significant role in the Zoroastrian religion. Traditionally Zoroastrians will pray several times per day to the God of the religion, Ahura Mazda. However, there is no rigid guideline for how a follower should worship. Zoroaster, the founder of the religion placed less emphasis on ritual worship, focusing instead on the central ethics of “Good Words, Good Thoughts, Good Deeds”
    All Prayers must be done while facing the sun, a fire or another sacred source of life. That being said, Zoroastrians are not fire worshippers as the sources of light being prayed to represent Ahura Mazda. Prayers must be performed by a Mobed/Dustoorji, a high priest, who also must be present during important ceremonies such as the Navjote.
    Purification of the mind, body and soul are strongly emphasized when performing prayers with fire being a supreme symbol of purity. Sacred fires are maintained at various Fire Temples, places of Zoroastrian worship which we will talk about a little bit later.
    Many Zoroastrians choose to wear a Kusti, a sort of belt worn around the waist, which is wrapped around the outside of a Sudreh, a long, clean, white shirt, while praying. The Kusti is knotted three times to remind the wearer of the religion’s three basic tenets which are “Good Words, Good Thoughts, Good Deeds”. The three knots also symbolize the beginning, middle and end of one’s life.
    Today we will being doing two prayers out of the Gathas, the sacred Zoroastrian text.
    The Gathas contains 17 hymns which are believed to have been composed by Zoroaster who was the founder of the religion
    The prayers were recorded in Avestan, an extinct Persian language
    The two prayers we will be doing today are considered to be very sacred and it is believed that chanting them continuously can ward off forces of darkness and evil

    The Navjote

    The Navjote, also known as the Sudreh-Pushi, is the initiation ceremony in the same vein as a bar mitzfah, where a child between the ages of 7-12 is accepted into the Zoroastrian fellowship
    Once the child has enough awareness and maturity to make a conscious decision to become a follower, they will begin preparing for their Navjote
    During the ceremony, the child recites several prayers with the Mobed and a few other priests. The child also receives their first kusti and sudreh during the ceremony.
    The Kusti and Sudreh signifies that the parents are now responsible for the moral and religious education of their newly initiated child
    When the ceremony is complete, the child is now regarded as a full fledged member of Zoroastrian community and will be held fully accountable for their actions from that point on


    ReplyDelete
  9. Here's some of the research I have on the cultural background to Tales From Firosha Baag. I found a lot of this information helpful in understanding the novel and I think it gives some good context as to why some of the characters in the novels do what they do.

    Navroz Bag

    Here we have a picture of the entrance gate to the Navroz Bag in Mumbai, India. Navroz Bag is very much like the Firozsha Baag that Rohinton Mistry’s novel takes place in
    Baugs are gated communities of Parsi people that are located throughout India. Baugs are very distinct from the rest of Indian society as they contain tight-knit Parsi communities living within them, that put a large emphasis on the continuation of Zoroastrian traditions and ways of life.
    Baugs tend to be very quiet, peaceful and clean places compared to most other areas in India. The quality of life within the Baags is also much better than the majority of the rest of India and could be likened to Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighbourhood
    This is a picture of Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world with an estimated population of 1 million
    As you can see, the disparity in quality of living is pretty vast
    The people living in Dharavi live in extreme poverty and the people living have suffered through multiple epidemics and natural disasters



    The Significance of Prayer

    Prayer plays a very significant role in the Zoroastrian religion. Traditionally Zoroastrians will pray several times per day to the God of the religion, Ahura Mazda. However, there is no rigid guideline for how a follower should worship. Zoroaster, the founder of the religion placed less emphasis on ritual worship, focusing instead on the central ethics of “Good Words, Good Thoughts, Good Deeds”
    All Prayers must be done while facing the sun, a fire or another sacred source of life. That being said, Zoroastrians are not fire worshippers as the sources of light being prayed to represent Ahura Mazda. Prayers must be performed by a Mobed/Dustoorji, a high priest, who also must be present during important ceremonies such as the Navjote.
    Purification of the mind, body and soul are strongly emphasized when performing prayers with fire being a supreme symbol of purity. Sacred fires are maintained at various Fire Temples, places of Zoroastrian worship which we will talk about a little bit later.
    Many Zoroastrians choose to wear a Kusti, a sort of belt worn around the waist, which is wrapped around the outside of a Sudreh, a long, clean, white shirt, while praying. The Kusti is knotted three times to remind the wearer of the religion’s three basic tenets which are “Good Words, Good Thoughts, Good Deeds”. The three knots also symbolize the beginning, middle and end of one’s life.
    Today we will being doing two prayers out of the Gathas, the sacred Zoroastrian text.
    The Gathas contains 17 hymns which are believed to have been composed by Zoroaster who was the founder of the religion
    The prayers were recorded in Avestan, an extinct Persian language
    The two prayers we will be doing today are considered to be very sacred and it is believed that chanting them continuously can ward off forces of darkness and evil

    The Navjote

    The Navjote, also known as the Sudreh-Pushi, is the initiation ceremony in the same vein as a bar mitzfah, where a child between the ages of 7-12 is accepted into the Zoroastrian fellowship
    Once the child has enough awareness and maturity to make a conscious decision to become a follower, they will begin preparing for their Navjote
    During the ceremony, the child recites several prayers with the Mobed and a few other priests. The child also receives their first kusti and sudreh during the ceremony.
    The Kusti and Sudreh signifies that the parents are now responsible for the moral and religious education of their newly initiated child
    When the ceremony is complete, the child is now regarded as a full fledged member of Zoroastrian community and will be held fully accountable for their actions from that point on


    ReplyDelete