Rohinton Mistry took an unflinching look inside India during The Emergency and brought a new cultural awareness to our lives. Read the highlights from our on-air discussion.

Oprah: Has anybody read a book like this before? I've never encountered pages that took me so far, and removed me from my own way of life and way of thinking the way A Fine Balance did. Rohinton [Mistry] has been compared to [Charles] Dickens in his finest years when he was able so profoundly to look at the human spirit juxtaposed against the inhumane conditions. What brought you to A Fine Balance?

Rohinton: In some ways, A Fine Balance was just another book for me. An attempt to tell a good story. And that's what I like to do. Why did I select that time period, The Emergency? I suppose it was because I had just finished a novel which was set four years earlier. I thought the next important watershed in Indian history is 1975—The Emergency. And it would be interesting to see what happened, how people lived and how their lives were really impacted by that.

Oprah: I was just thinking, that's the year I graduated from college. ... We were all in our own little worlds in 1975, not even, I know for a number of people in this country, aware, conscious, or in any way connected to what was going on in 1975.

Carlyn: When I started reading this book, ... I felt a little bit of shame that I knew so little. Like September 11 for me, it just knocked me out of my little bubble of my life and put me in a whole other place.

Oprah: That's why I felt it was important for us to do this book now. ... After September 11, I started taking more time for myself. I read it and thought, "This will do, in some ways, what September 11 has done. Take us out of our own little shell. Expose us to a whole other world out there going on beyond our backyards." And it did exactly that. Carlyn picked up the book and realized there's a whole other country out there.

The caste system in India

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