Welcome to Weekly Wonder, a weekly series in which we recommend books that belong in your To Be Read list.
This week has two Wonders, by the same brilliant author, Kiran Desai:
A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
For readers unfamiliar with Kiran Desai (or just Indian authors in general), here’s a basic introduction to Kiran Desai.
Born in India to a mother who had already carved out her niche in the literary world, Kiran Desai was educated in India, England, and the United States. That, of course, didn’t stop her from establishing herself as an acclaimed author of two bestsellers. Both are set in rural India, but with vastly differing styles and tone.
SO, WHAT’S UP WITH THE STORY?
Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard is a story about godmen, monkeys, food, an asthmatic Indian bureaucracy, more monkeys, family, inner peace, stereotypes and, as mentioned in the title, hullabaloo.
Sampath Chawla is the disappointing son of the off-kilter Chawla family. After a hilariously mishap at his boss’s daughter’s wedding, Sampath escapes his family and town by running into a guava orchard. Soon enough, he achieves a godman status- he is now a ‘baba’. The chaos doesn’t stop there- if anything, it expands, engulfing the rest of the book in a delightful cacophony.
While Hullabaloo is drenched in colors and light, The Inheritance of Loss is shadowy and dark- one could describe it as a novel in greyscale. Sai, a young girl left in the care of her embittered, retired judge of a grandfather, falls in love with her tutor. However, her fleeting romance is rudely interrupted by the Indian-Nepali insurgency and throws everything into chaos.
This chaos is not the entertaining kind, as seen in Hullabaloo. No, this the chaos that strikes fear in the heart of the reader. Desai shows us the two sides of her writing style – frightening and funny.
A GLIMPSE BETWEEN THE PAGES
Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard-
“But the world is round,” said Ammaji, pleased by her own cleverness.”Wait and see! Even if it appears he is going downhill, he will come up out on the other side. Yes, on top of the world. He is just taking the longer route.”
“Distant, tinged with mystery, warm with the romance of it all, he felt a sudden sharp longing, a craving for an imagined world, for something he’d never known but felt deep within himself.”
“No,” Sampath answered. His heart was big inside his chest. “No, I do not want an egg,” he said. “I want my freedom.”
“If a firecracker has been lit,” said Sampath,”then it is going to explode, like it or not. Unless you throw it into a bucket of water. An then, what a waste of a firecracker.”
The Inheritance of Loss-
“Could fulfillment ever be felt as deeply as loss? Romantically she decided that love must surely reside in the gap between desire and fulfillment, in the lack, not the contentment. Love was the ache, the anticipation, the retreat, everything around it but the emotion itself.”
“Looking a dead insect in the sack of basmati that had come all the way from Dehra Dun, he almost wept with sorrow and marvel at its journey, which was tenderness for his own journey. In India almost nobody would be able to afford this rice, and you had to travel around the world to be able to eat such things where they were cheap enough that you could gobble them down without being rich; and when you got home to the place where they grew, you couldn’t afford them anymore.”
“Never again would he know love for a human being that wasn’t adulterated by another, contradictory emotion.”
“But then, how could you have any self-respect knowing that you didn’t believe in anything exactly? How did you embrace what was yours if you didn’t leave something for it? How did you create a life of meaning and pride?”
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THEM
- Kiran Desai’s first novel and second novel are as similar as chalk and cheese. Seeing such contrasting work from the same author is disorienting as well as intriguing.
- Both novels are brutally honest about Indian politics and bureaucracy. It is served alongside ironical humor in Hullabaloo, but is completely undisguised in Inheritance.
- The protagonists, however, do share a few characteristics. Sai and Sampath both long for a world that isn’t the one they’re currently stuck in. They both get embroiled in a political mess in which they have no say and which they never wanted to be involved in.
- An interesting point to note is that while Hullabaloo is ‘happy’ in nature, and Inheritance is ‘sad’, both end in a very different way as compared to the tone of the rest of the book. Hullabaloo ends on a morbid, slightly ludicrous note while Inheritance ends with hope for a better future.
- Many compare Kiran Desai to her mother, Anita Desai. In my opinion, however, Kiran Desai is as good, if not better than Anita Desai.
I hope you enjoy the books! If you find any parallels between them, please tell me in the comments. I’d love to hear your take on this Compare and Contrast.