Reading guide for Animal's People by Indra Sinha

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Animal's People

A Novel

by Indra Sinha

Animal's People
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2008, 384 pages
    Mar 2009, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Discussion Questions

  1. What does Animal mean when he says he "used to be human once"? What does being human mean to Animal? What does Animal believe it would take for him to "become human" again? Does Animal get his wish?
  2. Who is Khã-in-the-Jar and what does he want from Animal? What do Khã-in-the-Jar and the others like him represent for Animal? How are readers to understand and make sense of Khã-in-the-Jar?
  3. What is the significance of names in the story? How do the names of individuals and things both suggest and obscure their meaning or value? What is the significance of the book's title, Animal's People?
  4. As outsiders, both Zafar and Elli attempt to help the people of Khaufpur. Compare and contrast their approaches. What are the costs and benefits of each? With whom did you find yourself most sympathetic? Why?
  5. What does Animal mean when he says that time does not exist for the poor? Why must all things be "now o'clock"?
  6. Who or what is Kampani? What do Zafar's dream and Elli's confessions reveal about Kampani?
  7. Animal, Ma Franci, and Zafar conceive of "that night" and its repercussions in unique and specific ways. Detail how each understands and makes sense of the events of "that night" and why the disaster occurred. How does each believe "that night" should be resolved for the people of Khaufpur? With whom do you find yourself in most agreement? Why?
  8. What happened during the night of the factory fire? What is the significance of the mysterious woman clad in burqa with a broom? What parts did Animal, Ma Franci, and others play in that fateful event? What did the fire mean for the community, for Animal? What role will it play for them in the future?
  9. To what does Elli, Animal, and Somraj's discussion of music and its relationship to promises refer? What do the music and promises metaphors tell us? What do they tell Animal? Do these metaphors continue to resonate for Animal at the end of his tale? Why or why not?
  10. Animal's People has been described as a book that "has its roots in unspeakable tragedy, but manages to stay upbeat, darkly funny, and utterly devoid of self-pity." Do you agree with this statement? Discuss some of the key elements of the story that validate/invalidate this claim.

More for Book Clubs

Read Further
Explore the world Indra Sinha has created by visiting the website of the fictional town of Khaufpur at Book club leaders should ask book club members to explore the website, especially the interview with the lead character, Animal on page
Why do you believe the author has crafted such a website?
Has the website altered your understanding or appreciation of the novel?  If yes, how so? If no, why not?
What questions would you pose to Animal? How do you believe he would respond to them?
If you could be like Elli and offer a service that would be advertised on this site, what would you offer to the city of Khaufpur?  Provide a sample of your Ad for the group.
Take Action - Donate
Book club leaders can visit to access Indra Sinha's tribute to Sunil Kumar, his inspiration for the character of Animal.

Print a copy of the tribute and distribute it to members of the book club. You may wish to discuss the following with the group:

a. What are the parallels that exist between Sunil and Animal's story?
b. Does Sunil's end impact your appreciation of Sinha's telling of the story?

The tribute sheet has a donation form attached. Encourage book club members to collect and bring donations to the meeting and complete one donation form in the name of the book club and send in all donations in the name of the book club.
Investigate the real event- "That Night"
What is the real event that inspired Sinha's portrait of Khaufpur?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Simon & Schuster. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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