Meet the Author: DSC Prize Winner Cyrus Mistry

Meet the Author: DSC Prize Winner Cyrus Mistry

Bachi Karkaria (L) and Cyrus Mistry (R) in Mumbai on August 8, 2014. (Asia Society India Centre)

MUMBAI, August 8, 2014 — The Asia Society, in collaboration with the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, hosted author and 2014 prize recipient Cyrus Mistry in conversation with notable journalist, author and Bombay personality Bachi Karkaria. Cyrus Mistry spoke about his novel Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer, the novel delves into the life of the Parsis, Zoroastrians who emigrated from Persia to India more than a thousand years ago and represent one of India's many diverse communities who have fiercely guarded their rich traditions, contributing immensely to India’s growth and development across industry, philanthropy and culture. Despite dwindling in number, the Parsis face extremes of marginalization even within their own ranks.

Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer is a tragic love story woven around the lives of the pallbearers or “khandhias”. Hosted at the quintessential Ripon Club, a members-only Parsi club that rarely opens its doors to the public, the intimate and characteristic atmosphere set the tone for an enriching discussion. Bachi Karkaria commended the author for picking a subject that is often ignored and Mistry commented that the novel is based on a true story he heard while researching the Khandhias in the 1990’s. The story came to life almost twenty years later in this deeply rooted and grounded novel. The speakers delved into the novels many themes and settings; remarking that the greatest novels of the world are born as local novels and if they are truly great they become international novels.

Introspecting about the Parsis, the speakers discussed two pertinent issues dividing the community, deforestation at the Towers of Silence and marriage within and outside the faith. The author then read an excerpt from his book which dealt with the protagonist’s early exploration of religion and spirituality. Talking about an author’s poetic license, Mistry spoke of his greatest influences, Dostoevsky and Chekhov, and also elaborated on his creative process; saying he often doesn’t know what shape his stories will take prior to penning them down. The audience was enchanted by the author and asked many questions about the condition of the Khandhias today as well as the setting of the novel. Many members of the audience lined up after the discussion as well to speak with the author personally and find out more about more about the little-known community.

Reported by Antaraa Vasudev, Programme Assistant, Asia Society India Centre

This programme falls under our Meet the Author series, which aims to bring together the freshest perspectives from writers across Asia as they engage in dialogue about their recent publications and the art of writing.

Video: Watch the complete programme (59 min., 43 sec.)

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August 11, 2014
by Maneka Chotirmall