“Of White Hairs & Cricket”, by Rohinton Mistry

Some weeks ago, in Literature, we discussed the story, from Carmbridge’s Stories of Ourselves, “Of White Hairs & Cricket” written by Rohinton Mistry. This one unfolds around the life of a twelve year old kid who comes to understand the difference between reality & fantasy and the finitude & infinitude of life by the figure of his father getting old.

After analysing the text, we were asked to choose an essay question from the professor’s blog:

  1. How does the writer deal with the subject of mortality and acceptance of the pure reality in the story “Of White Hairs and Cricket”?
  2.  “Of White Hairs and Cricket” portrays the emotional difficulty of a young boy when he sees his father as a mortal being.
  3. Comment closely on how the writer of the story “Of White Hairs and Cricket” depicts the boy coming of age.
  4. Explore how the writer of “Of White hairs and Cricket” deals with the passing of time.

Then, develop the essay in pairs. I did it along Luz Esteban and our work is the following:

“Of White Hairs and Cricket” portrays the emotional difficulty of a young boy when he sees his father as a mortal being.

          Rohinton Mistry in his story “Of White Hairs and Cricket” portrays the emotional difficulty of a young boy when he sees his father as a mortal being. The significance of this discovery is put across through the sudden change and gradual build up of his sheltered life before his discovery, either as regards their no longer playing of Cricket or his weekly duty of plucking out his father’s white hairs, and the imagery of best friends’ father lying sick in bed.

           To begin with, the protagonist of the story seems to have an immature, “innocent and joyous” mind until through two epiphanic moments he changes his perspective of life. On the one hand, throughout a flashback to the times in which his father was young and they played Cricket every Sunday, the boy has his first epiphany. In this one, he realises that his father is no longer an active young man and therefore he is not able to practise Cricket as they used to do. This is clearly put by the narrator as follows: “he seemed so much older than he did when he was batting”. At this point the kids while the kids were playing cricket, the father decided to rest instead of keep on playing. The kid understands that his father is growing old and that time has taken his energetic happiness away.

           On the other hand, the child goes through the second epiphanic moment where a different viewpoint about life is revealed. The boy comprehends why he had to do the unpleasant task of plucking out his father’s white hairs every Sunday. He realises that his father was aging and would eventually die. Thus, he now was “hoping he would ask” him to continue. He wanted to spend every possible second left with his father. In addition, he falls into the reality of him being “powerless to stop” “all the white hairs” that grew onto his father’s head. This revealing moment also reinforces the protagonist’s recognition of the approaching death that he couldn’t control. Unlike before, now he felt pleased and happy to do the task every Sunday.

          Furthermore, the boy’s point of view of life has a shift through the specular moment he has by witnessing the conditions of Viraf’s, his best friend’s, father. When he arrives at Viraf’s house, he captures the resemblance of the dying man and his father in the future; “I noticed the lines on his brow, like Daddy’s, only Daddy’s were less deep”. He compares the wrinkles on the dying man with the ones of his father. The adolescent goes through a traumatic experience, as the text depicts the image of the smelling “sickroom” and the “needle stuck into his right arm” that was “connected by a tube to a large bottle”. He develops from the “cosy and comforting” youth to his later acknowledgment of mortality. Besides, the boy leaves Viraf’s house literally but he metaphorically leaves his childhood behind.

           All in all, the boy’s emotional crisis is not only about the discovery of mortality but the entire realization that the world he has always lived in is a fantasy, not reality, and that pain and suffering exist; people age, die and nothing remains the same. In other words, he comprehends the finitude of life, especially his dad’s, although its end is very far away from him.

By: Luz Esteban & Anouk de Laferrere

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