The Journey of Youth: Comparative
The Journey of Youth For most adults childhood evokes varying degrees of nostalgia as we reflect on our memories largely shaped by experience, some positive others negative. While our stories are varied the sights and scents that fill our youth can at a moments’ notice flood back when we detect a hauntingly familiar aroma. For Rohinton Mistry and Moses Milstein, the sights, sounds and scents of their childhood provide tapestry kaleidoscope of stereotypes and social prejudices which influence their perspectives as adults.
Memories of Montreal – and Richness by Moses Milstein exposes the unique cultural osaic of 1950’s Montreal from the perspective of a 7 year old Austrian Jew. Now a father living in Vancouver, Moses laments his decision to raise his son in homogenous West Vancouver where the unremarkable streets and pedestrian existence envelope everyday living in rhododendrons and cherry blossoms. (Milstein 150). Moses compares his son’s uneventful walk to school with his as a young boy navigating the streets of Montreal.
During the short two block walk to the Jewish Peretz School, Moses is immersed in a menagerie of stores, merchants and everyday activities that seems harsh by contrast yet a source of great admiration to the writer. The corners of our street, like every street then, were held by the four corner stores. The one we used, the “Jewish” store, (… ) . Around the corner was Wing Ling, the Chinese Laundry, like all Chinese laundries painted green on the outside (.. Ђ Next to the laundry, across the alley, which ran like a sparkling river of broken glass and urine produced by the hordes of feral cats, giant rats and stumbling drunks who waded therein, was the Jewish Tailor. (Milstein 150) The Jewish Tailor, like every Jewish family he knew, had been touched by the holocaust. His father was a tailor so he felt an affinity for the tailor and his wife as they had been in DP camps during the war. He spoke of the sadness he felt walking by their house. His recollections of the tailor illustrated the cultural legacy of deep sorrow Jews felt in the years following the war.
The deli offered one of several delicious urban smells emitted from the various shops along his route. The bakery, tavern, fruit stores and the fabulous Rachel Market where French farmers, some even able to speak Yiddish, displayed their produce. Just below the Rachel Market the horrific slaughterhouse ‘a subterranean chamber of eath’ (Milstein 1 51) ended the life of many a chicken leaving a stench of singed feathers. These sights and scents greeted him on his walk to school where he was educated in Yiddish, spoke English but lived in a French neighborhood.
This neighborhood left is clear that he reveres these experiences and as remorseful his son does not have this type of experience. Lend Me Your Light is Rohinton Mistry tale of his older brother Percy and his friend Jamshed, illustrating the social differences of the caste system between Jamshed and Percy’s who both live in the Firozsha Baag neighborhood of Bombay. Set in the early 1960’s when it was culturally acceptable to refer to lower castes as ghatisl and before “But the good old days, when you could scream at a ghaton, kick her and hurl her down the steps, and expect her to show up for work the next morning, had definitely passed. (Mistry 155) 1 Hindi slang used to denote an uncultured and ignorant person. We find traditional tiffin(2) carriers skillfully navigating the school compound with their long rickety tin-filled crates, delivering lunches from around the city. The food contained within these tins fill the air with a stench that seemed to permeate the uildings and linger. Rohinton recalls eating lunch in the drill hall surrounded by the tiffin’s, as a very unpleasant experience. 2) Tiffin carriers or dabbas are a kind of lunch box used widely in India for tiffin meals In contrast Percy’s friend Jamshed was Just one of 400 boys who enjoyed his lunch in the air conditioned luxury of a chauffeured car dispatched daily from his luxury family home in Malabar Hill. Not only did Jamshed enjoy his daily meal in comfort but he was driven to and from school which contrasted with Rohintons Journey from Firozsha Baag travelling by foot and bus. Following each visit with Jamshed Percy’s mother would curiously interrogate him about their activities.
On one occasion Rohinton overheard that Jamshed had recently received the original soundtrack of My Fair Lady and he asked his mother to negotiate so he could accompany Percy to listen to it. On the visit Rohinton learned that Jamshed did not like India and wanted to leave. Rohinton and Percys parents shared many of Jamsheds views on India and lack of opportunity with the flood’ of ghatis. (Mistry 156) While Moses speaks to cultural diversity and stereotypes he found in Montreal you ave a sense he enjoyed and cherished his childhood.
So much so that he laments that his son does not have the same opportunity. He illustrates this by talking about various store and shop owners which seem very positive–cherishing the differences. In contrast, Bombay of Rohintons childhood details the poor life conditions of many, discrimination through the caste system, prejudices he and his family had and how that influenced his eventual immigration to Canada. Most of the illustrations Rohinton provides of his neighborhood are negative, except for those describing Jamshed, whom he admired.