Of White Hairs and Cricket by Rohinton Mistry
In Of White Hairs and Cricket by Rohinton Mistry we have the theme of loyalty, connection, escape, freedom, guilt, fear, conflict and coming of age. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed fourteen year old boy the reader realises after reading the story that Mistry may be exploring the theme of loyalty. Every Sunday the narrator plucks the white hairs from his father’s head. Though at times the narrator has disliked doing so he has never refused his father. It is as though the act of plucking his father’s white hairs connects the narrator to his father. Though this may not be something that the narrator is aware of due to the fact that he would much prefer to be doing other things. It is also noticeable that there is an element of conflict in the story. The narrator’s grandmother argues with the narrator’s parents due to the fact that she believes the narrator to be underfed. However the reality may be that the narrator’s grandmother wishes to mother the narrator herself thinking that perhaps she knows what is best for the narrator. Despite the conflict that exists between the grandmother and the narrator’s parents there is still a sense that all four are close. That they care for one another despite the fact that they may have disputes. The family are closely knit together.
There is also a sense that the narrator wishes to escape from Firozsha Baag. Something that is noticeable by the fact that the narrator likes looking at the record playing on the record player. It fills his time and helps him to forget that he lives in Firozsha Baag. Similarly with the father when he fantasises about the things he will buy when he gets the job which is advertised in the paper. Things will change for him and his family. They might still live in Firozsha Baag but they will be living a far more comfortable life. The fact that the narrator would like to live in Viraf’s block on the third floor so that he can see past Firozsha Baag also suggests that the narrator would like to escape from his environment. There is also a sense that when the narrator plays cricket he is free. It is also an activity which like the plucking of the white hairs connects the narrator with his father.
The fact that the narrator sees Viraf’s father in bed dying might also be important as in many ways the narrator is not only afraid but he also realises how important his own family, particularly his father, is to him. It is as though the narrator by seeing Viraf’s father realises that he needs to spend more time with his family. If anything the narrator feels guilty though in reality the guilt may not necessarily be justified. It is not as though the narrator is a bad son or grandson. However Viraf’s father is most likely the first person that the narrator has seen who is dying and for the first time in his life the narrator may understand just how important his family really are. It is also possible that the narrator is projecting the fear he feels about seeing Viraf’s father onto his own life. It is as though the narrator may feel vulnerable and also see that his own family might be vulnerable too. In many ways the fact that the narrator has seen Viraf’s father dying may leave critics to suggest that the narrator is coming of age. He is looking at life with a new pair of eyes.
The end of the story is also interesting as the narrator promises himself that he will do everything that his father asks of him. He only has to ask the narrator and he will not refuse his father. By seeing Viraf’s father the narrator wants to get closer to his father (and family). If anything the narrator may realise that the most important thing in his life is his family and he wants to be there for them. In many ways the narrator is acting selflessly. He is putting others before himself. Where previously the narrator might have begrudgingly done as his father asked now he has decided that he will do things willingly. Which further plays on the theme of connection. The narrator wants to be there for his family. He wants to help them and though this is admirable the reality may be that the narrator through feeling guilty is blaming himself for the circumstances that his family find themselves in. He may be taking responsibility for things he is not responsible for or which he has no control over. It is as though the narrator is beating himself with a stick yet there is no need for him to do so. He is a young boy who has done nothing wrong and who is taking on other people’s problems.