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Literature / Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard

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It is an exceedingly hot summer for the small Indian town of Shahkot, Punjab. All kinds of strange causes have been hypothesized, a giant fan has been built to alter the monsoon, and Red Cross planes soar overhead, carrying food and colorful tins from distant lands. Yet none of these prove to be much help, until one fateful day where the rain does pour on the secluded little town. On this day do the people dance in the streets, the power goes out as usual and Kulfi, the strange young wife of the Chawla family give birth to their first son Sampath. Such is the beginning of Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, a 1998 novel by Indian author Kiran Desai.


It is twenty years later when we return to the little Indian family. Sampath has spent his time at school with a disappointing performance, and is indifferent to his tasks at the post office. Perpetually keeping his mind away from the rush and the noise of humanity, he does little apart from losing himself in the mounds of letters he deals with, drawing the ire of his father and grandmother. It does not take long before he loses his job due to an unfortunate incident at the boss's daughter's wedding, and here life offers an opportunity to leave daily contrivances and lead a peaceful, solitary life in the countryside. And soon enough, tales of an omniscient holy man upon a guava tree spreads through the small town, bringing about a turn for the quirky as all kinds of chaos dawn upon the inexplicable "Monkey Baba" and the unassuming citizens.


This work contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Innocence: Kulfi starts out harmlessly eccentric, having all sorts of strange cravings throughout her pregnancy and drawing strange pictures on walls. After Sampath rises to fame, she roams the countryside to find and prepare ingredients for his food, and near the end of the book, she attempts to lure a monkey into a stew to help Sampath recover.
  • Arranged Marriage: The Hungry Hop boy's family attempts to force him into this to keep him away from Pinky.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Pinky Chawla.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Hungry Hop ice cream boy.
  • Feigning Intelligence: More or less everything Sampath does after his exodus into the abandoned guava orchard.
  • Lethal Chef: Kulfi in the "ending", quite literally.
  • Mad Artist: Kulfi is a culinary version.
  • The Skeptic: The Atheist Society spy.
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  • Stalking Is Love: Taken to a, um, peculiar extent with Pinky and the Hungry Hop boy.

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