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The problem with reading an awesome novel by a particular author is the high expectations one has with the other novels and when that doesn’t happen,you feel heartbroken for both yourself and the author. And that’s exactly what happened with ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard‘ written by Kiran Desai. Having read her other, more famous, Booker prize winning novel, ‘The Inheritance Of Loss,’ which is quite splendid weaving strands of varying themes into a beautiful story, I built up many sky high praises for Kiran Desai. But, unfortunately, her debut novel doesn’t come close to her 2nd one. ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard,’ is a good read nonetheless, yet lacks the brilliance that lights up the storyline of ‘The Inheritnace of Loss.’
The plot of ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard‘ begins with the birth of Sampath in an apparently middle class family living in a village named Shahkot. Then the novel does an Indian soap opera kind of leap and we see Sampath twenty years later, quite dull, and doomed as a failure by his father. Only his mother, Kulfi, has faith that her son will be able to be something in life. And ho! what do you know, he does manage to do just that. But not before getting fired from his clerk job in the post office and running away from Shahkot to be away from the misery of life. He then comes across a guava orchard and decides to climb on a guava tree and interestingly finds peace and solace over there. He feels uncluttered and unfettered on that tree. With a quirk of fate, he gets mistaken by a holy man atop a tree and his father gets a brilliant idea to juice out money from this venture. People flock to listen to his wise words and seek his advice and blessings! Sampath thus from being a good for nothing fellow becomes a famous Monkey Baba revered by one and all. Apart from Sampath, we get to see the rest of his peculiar family like his mother who relishes food and whipping up quite grand and glorious dishes. Then his sister, Pinky who falls in love with an ice cream seller, Hungry Hop.
The one word for this novel is eccentric. ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard‘ reminds one of the bumbling comedies staged during Elizabethan Age that had similar comic situations with myriad quirky characters. The book gives a satirical take on rural/town India and its obsession with godly figures. It highlights the dishonesty that prevails among the fake babas that spring up in all nooks and corners. Of course, Sampath never intended to become a Monkey Baba. He in fact wanted to run away from all things pretentious. So perhaps Desai is trying to bring out how holy men should be in their heart and soul? Well, one can interpret it in anyway one wants. The characters are also well fleshed out particularly Kulfi whose love for food has been highlighted since page 1.
While the comic ans satirical part of the book is perfect, its the Bollywoodish touch and the simple, immature writing and the weak climax that make the book rather disappointing. Its quite entertaining and funny in its ludicrous situations but not really a must read, though a fun read!
Well, you could either go for it and enjoy the fun or avoid it completely. Take your pick!
Poetry is hardly anyone’s cup of tea today, most prefer TV, radio, internet, music, or other novels to read. However, poetry still continues to be written and still possesses a magic and an ability to convey the poet’s inner feelings to a perceptive audience. It can simply display those inner feelings, or urge the readers to criticize, question certain systems and traditions. Poetry is still relevant today and hopefully will continue to have such functions in the future.
‘Jejuri‘ written by an eminent Indian poet named Arun Kolatkar is a collection of 31 poems about a place called Jejuri in Maharashtra, near Pune. Kolatkar hasn’t simply described the place and but rather has questioned sharply the institution of religion in India and specifically in Jejuri. All the poems in this collection more or less share this quality. Kolatkar gives a description of a particular curious object/scene/setting/area withing Jejuri and through those descriptions raises those questions. All the poems have a tinge on skepticism-an aspect that attests to the unbeliever in Kolatkar which is clearly seen in the first poem, ‘The Bus’ wherein the poet cannot connect with the mind of a religious man in the bus that takes him to Jejuri. The poem starts the poet’s journey to this religious place and immediately sets the tone of skepticism right there that can be seen in all the subsequent poems as well. This skepticism takes away spirituality of the poet for religious places. The collection ends with six poems under the title:’The Railway Station.’ Kolatkar apparently is going to take a train to depart from Jejuri and even in the six poems about the railway station, Kolatkar presents a unique portrait of the mundane aspects of most Indian railway station and colours them with a new form so that the reader will be able to discern beyond the obvious. Even in Jejuri’s railway station, Kolatkar sees signs of religion that pervades the rest of the town.
The other poems have descriptions of numerous aspects of Jejuri from the most important to the most trivial. But to each aspect, Kolatkar is able to give a vividness and novelty that is not usually associated with that particular aspect.
All the poems are written in a simple language, using colloquial and Americanized words. Hardly any poems are long with the exception of ‘Ajamil and the Tigers’ which is a modern form of ballad incorporating certain Indian styles of story narration. Since ‘Jejuri‘ is a collection of poems that presents the poet’s journey to Jejuri, it would be advisable to read all the poems in the collection to get a sense of Kolatkar’s skepticism and questioning of the commercialization of religion. It is not at all taxing to read any poems, being mostly short and straightforward and having none of the subtle messages that poems usually do. Most poems also are laced with sarcasm. The collection is a fascinating(though one sided) view of one of the important places of religious worship for any devout Indian Hindu or any other pilgrim.
What is disappointing is that Kolatkar does not give a broader view of Jejuri. He sees it through his lens of skepticism and scorn of faith and fails to look at the spirituality of the place that attracts many devotees there. He imbibes it in all aspects and so the reader looks at Jejuri only through his perspective and for those who have never been there (like me) will come to believe that is a drab, dingy place with nothing substantial to boast of except some temple ruins and some stones that people worship.
Aside that aspect, ‘Jejuri‘ is a relatively good collection of poems that is lovely to read and that transports the reader to this strangely religious place and make them experience everything in Jejuri in a novel way. A definite must read. Need another boost to pick up this poetry book? ‘Jejuri‘ won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize’ in 1977. Now, you must be thinking that if it won this prestigious prize, there definitely must be something good in this collection, right? Absolutely, which is why I recommend everyone to read ‘Jejuri‘ to one’s heart’s content.
Ever wondered how a child reacts to violence? What are the effects of cruelty, brutality on a child’s mind? His/her psyche? How it scars them? What they think of it ? How they interpret it? Ok..now you must be wondering why I am babbling child psychology cum emotional talk in a book review blog. But don’t worry I intend to write a book review only which will partially answer a few of those above seemingly unrelated questions. So what’s the book? Is it a psychology book? Or a EQ book?
Definitely NOT! Its a fictional novel produced by an astonishingly talented writer. The book’s name is ‘Ice-Candy Man‘ or ‘Cracking India’ written by Bapsi Sidhwa.
Partition was a big blot on Indian history. A lot of books were written during that time that were devoted to the sentiments, pain and grief of the common people. While most Partition literature prominently deals with adult perspectives, ‘Ice Candy Man‘ provides a rare child’s perspective of the Partition. Of course, this perspective is more or less colored by Sidhwa’s adult perspectives and ruminations too but nevertheless the book is essentially from a child’s point of view.
In a nutshell, ‘Ice Candy Man‘ is narrated by a Parsi girl, Lenny Sethi, living in Lahore. She has polio and an Ayah-Shanti-looks after her. Shanti is an attractive female constantly surrounded by a medley of male admirers who are mostly employed in Lenny’s house. Lenny learns about the news of the division, the spread of hatred as they unfold through the events she herself witnesses or hears from adults. But mostly Partition is represented or personified with Ayah’s life. How Partition, how one person’s love for her ruins her life to a large extent is a metaphor for how things turned from bad to worse, how religion got entangled with love during the Partition. Sidhwa has cleverly represented Ayah as the complex inter-cultural and inter religious background of Lahore in the pre-Partition days. Lenny’s thoughts not only reflect her childlike, sometimes confused, innocent perceptions but also depict Partition in a different light. Its gruesomeness is heightened when a child describes it. It seems even more mindless, awful and unnecessary.
Sidhwa’s style of writing can be difficult to digest as it seems desultory, jumping from one topic to another, one time frame to another in a flash. It can appear unconnected and difficult to keep track of but perhaps through this style, she is trying to portray a child’s mind and how rapidly it jumps from one interesting aspect to another. The randomness of children and their short attention span is marvelously portrayed in their writing style.
‘Ice Candy Man‘ is worth reading. it may be hard to find as it was first published in 1988. But one can easily get it online and if one searches diligently, one is bound to find one copy in some well managed library.