The Ghost of Firozshabaag is a well known short story by Rohinton Mistry, a Canadian- Indian author. It is the story from the perspective of an Ayah – the maid, living in an Indian Parsi household . She tells about the hardships her life been through in all these years and how she had to leave her precious moments behind in order to seek employment and support her family in Goa.
Themes in The Ghost of Firozsha Baag
Themes help in understanding the aspects from which a story is told. In The Ghost of FirozshaBaag, there are themes like childhood, loneliness, racism and social class.
The protagonist, Ayah whose name is Jacqueline, but everyone calls her Jaakaylee felt so lonely this year during Christmas. She went to the mass like every year with her friends, but came back home alone because all of her friends went out with their friends or boyfriends.
Every year all of us Catholic Ayahs from Firozsha Baag go for mass. But this time I came home alone, the others went somewhere with their boyfriends.
The feel of being alone is something that was always present inside her, but as she has grown old, it is getting strong.
I lay on my bedding thinking of those days. it is so strange that so much of your life you can remember if you think quietly in the darkness.
Ayah sleeps on floor bedding and thought about her past life along with the incidents occured in Firozsha Baag. It is dark around her and she is not sleepy yet. thus, she was remembering coming to Bombay from Goa in search of work. She reminds of all the bad boys teasing girls in this locality. She reminds of her friend Cajetan who tried to touch her when they went out to the beach one day. All the memories were coming back to her in night when there is darkness and silence.
Leaving behind my brothers and sisters and parents, and all my village friends. But I knew leaving was best things.
Here, Ayah thinks about the time when opportunities were very rare in Goa and tourism was not a thing. Goan people were poor and for earning they had to move to the other cities. Ayah also came to Bombay to earn for her family and friends. She had no other option since there was no job for her in that small city of Goa. All this sacrifice left her alone all her life and there was not even a person with whom she could share her feelings.
The theme of childhood is also visible in the story from the beginning. Ayah begins story by sharing that she believes in ghosts and there used to be ones in her village back then.
I always believed in ghosts. When I was little I saw them in my father’s small field in Goa. That was very long ago, before I came to Bombay to work as Ayah.
During her lonely patches, she lays down and think about the time when she was a free child, she could have friends to meet and play with.
And the ghost reminded me of Cajetan, whom I have not seen since I came to Bombay – what did I say, forty-nine years ago.
Passing through all the chaos of seeing ghost in Firozsha Baag, Ayah again thought about her childhood friend Cajetan. She and Cajetan were friends in Goa. He was a naughty just like other boys. Ayan recalls that it has been forty nine years ago when she met Cajetan. It seems like as she is getting old, she is thinking about all those cherishing moments from her childhood. It is indeed saddening that Jacqueline do not have anyone to whom she could call her friend anymore.
Sewing, thinking about my mother, how hard she used to work, how she would repair
clothes for my brother and sisters.
Again, Ayah drifts back into her childhood when her mother used to sew clothes for her children. They were poor so they had to rely on charity clothes while her mother made them useful by altering them.
Since the short story comes under the category of post colonial literature, finding racism is quite normal. People of subcontinent have this complex of following Britishers in terms of fashion, lifestyle, and language. Thus, The Ghost of Firozsha Baag also have this element within it.
Especially, because I am Goan Catholic and very dark skin colour. Parsis prefer Manglorean Catholics, they have light skin colour.
Parsis who were close to Britishers during all the partition time. They did not take part in any sort of polilitics and considered themselves as high as Britishers. They think that having light skin will make them superior over everyone else. They wanted to hire Mangalorean maid instead of dark colored so that their children’s skin colour will not get affected. Ayah herslef told that if some dull coloured child was born in Parsi family, they would call him or her “Ayah nu Chokro” (Ayah’s chils).
This is an utter racism to consider someone less of their kind on the basis of their skin colour.
Parsis like light skin, and when Parsi baby is born that is the first and most important thing. If it is fair they say, O how nice light skin baby just like parents. But if it is dark skin they say, arre what is this ayah no chhokro, ayah’s child.
As it is noticed that Parsis thinks highly of themselves. In this household, poor Ayah was also treated as someone of lesser caste. Though, she was living for around forty nine years with the family, but they still did not trust her. She was not given house keys and she also had to sleep on floor despite of her old age.
Ayah also complains that she has to do all kitchen work by sitting on floor. Growing age has made it difficult for her to sit or get up from the floor. The house owners must not gave it importance that Ayah is an old lady now and they must comfort her in some way.
On the other hand, when some days Bai or the lady owner of the house treats her well and in a friendly manner, Ayah thinks positive of her.
She does not treat me like servant all the time.
Bai involved her in performing a Parsi ritual of calling off Bhoot. Though, she needed two Parsis for that, but Bai did not hesitate in asking for help from Ayah. It shows that she takes her as a family too, sometimes.
These are themes in The Ghost of Firozsha Baag that assisted in constructing this heartfelt short story.
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