In her dazzling, much-heralded debut novel, Kiran Desai tells a wryly hilarious and poignant story of life, love, and family relationships - simultaneously capturing the vivid culture of the Indian subcontinent and the universal intricacies of human experience.
Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard is the story of Sampath Chawla, born in a time of drought into a family not quite like other families, in a town not quite like other towns. After years of failure at school, failure at work, of spending his days dreaming in the tea stalls and singing to himself in the public gardens, it does not seem as if Sampath is going to amount to much.
"But the world is round," says his grandmother. "Wait and see! Even if it appears he is going downhill, he will come up on the other side. Yes, on top of the world. He is just taking the longer route."
No one believes her, until one day Sampath climbs a guava tree in search of peaceful contemplation and becomes unexpectedly famous as a holy man.
Sampath's newfound fame sends the tiny town of Shahkot into turmoil. His feisty sister falls in love with the very unsuitable Hungry Hop Ice Cream Boy; a syndicate of larcenous, alcoholic monkeys terrorizes the pilgrims who cluster around Sampath's tree; his father attempts to turn the orchard into a highly profitable carnival scene; and an overzealous spy determines to get to the bottom of it all and, to his consternation, achieves this goal in a most unpleasant way. In short, none of Kiran Desai's outrageous characters goes unaffected as events spin increasingly out of control.
That summer the heat had enveloped the whole of Shahkot in a murky yellow haze. The clutter of rooftops and washing lines that usually stretched all the way to the foothills at the horizon grew blurred and merged with the dust-filled sky.
'Problems have been located in the cumulus that have become overly heated,' read Mr. Chawla from the newspaper. 'It is all a result of volcanic ash thrown up in the latest spurt of activity in Tierra del Fuego.'
And a little later he reported to whomever might be listening: 'The problem lies in the currents off the West African coastline and the unexplained molecular movement observed in the polar ice-caps.'
And: 'Irag attempts to steal monsoon by deliberately creating low pressure over desert provinces and deflecting winds from India.'
And even: 'Hungarian musician offers to draw rain clouds from Europe to India via the music of his flute.'
'Why can't they think of serious...
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