Hullabaloo in the guava orchard
This is Kiran Desai’s first novel – she won the Booker in 2006 with her second – Inheritance of loss. I really loved that book and I don’t know why it took me so long to buy & read this one, but…there you go.
I wasn’t the least bit disappointed, though it’s very obvious how much Ms. Desai grew in the 8 years that passed between the 2 novels. Where The Inheritance of Loss is complex and follows several stories, Hullabaloo focuses on Sampath Chawla and his search for freedom. In fact, Sampath is nothing but a lazy 20smonething year old who doesn’t want to deal with life, adulthood and responsibilities. In school he’s done badly, he loathes the position his father got him as a clerk in the post office…in fact, he hates everything and everyone around him. All he wants is to be alone, just like an angry teen.
But his likeability – or lack of – doesn’t account for much in this charming little novel. What “makes” it is the secondary characters, the people of Shahkot: Mr. Chawla, with his ambition for his kids, Kulfi, his food obsessed wife (in fact, Kulfi seems like quite the cooking whiz, eternally unsatisfied and unmotivated, like her son – who gets to be the only one to taste her wondrous novelty dishes), the gossiping neighbours, the confused and unprofessional officials and, of course, the drunken monkeys. Ms. Desai is immersed in all this “small town India” – loud, colourful, funny, aromatic, chatty – and the atmosphere is engulfing, almost palpable. Sampath’s unpredictable transformation from angry and frustrated to revered holy man happens pretty much over night (and is, of course, an unintentional sham), but, as Mr. Chawla finally seems to catch a thread of something that could justify the expectations he’s had for his son he only manages to slowly disturb the balance and speed up the downfall.
And about this “downfall” – without giving too much away – a review I read confused me a bit. I understood it one way, and they got something totally different. Now I kinda doubt my own take on things, but if anyone has read it – please, pleasee share what you make of the ending. 😀
Anyways, if you like this kind of “indian” novels – you’ll love this one. But if Ms. Desai’s Booker effort didn’t convince you, then this probably isn’t something you’ll enjoy better. 😉 And that’s it for the advice – this has been post no. 101, and I wanted to point that out because, as the Depeche Mode fan that I am, the number 101 has some sort of significance 😛