The Song of Kahunsha Paperback – Nov 22 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Novelist/playwright Irani (The Cripple and his Talismans, 2005) back cover sets his grim second novel, an Indian twist on Oliver Twist, in his native Bombay in 1993, just after the Hindu/Muslim riots sparked by the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. Ten-year-old dreamer Chamdi 3 runs away from the orphanage that has been his only home in search of his father 44. His fate is telegraphed by his mode of transport--the back of a garbage truck 45. "Adopted" by street-urchins Guddi and her brother Sumdi 75-83, the innocent Chamdi is inexorably drawn into the criminal underworld of Anand Bhai 138 and ultimately forced to participate in the revenge killing of an innocent Muslim family 280-89 after the local Hindu temple is bombed 218. Somewhere along the way, Chamdi's half-hearted quest for his real family falls by the wayside, undercutting the impetus that plunged him into this nightmare realm in the first place. Irani attempts to meld the magic of Chamdi's dreams and stories with the cruelty of life among the poorest of Bombay's poor; however, the plot is thin and the main character, while decent and loyal, is powerless and frighteningly naive. The novel ends on a note of apparent hope, but it is hard to believe, under the circumstances, that Chamdi's vision of Bombay as a city of "no sadness" (the meaning of his made-up term "kahunsha") 12 is anything other than a dangerous delusion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Ten-year-old Chamdi, a bright and sensitive boy raised from infancy in a Bombay orphanage, prays to Jesus that he will try not to be sad and imagines a place called Kahunsha, a city where there is no sadness. When the orphanage is to be torn down and the children placed elsewhere, he first cajoles the director to reveal information about his parentage, then runs away in search of his father. But the streets of Bombay are not what Chamdi envisioned and prove a cruel environment. Joining streetwise brother and sister Sumdi and Guddi, he is soon in thrall to Anand Bhai, the man who controls the beggars in the area, forcing them to commit illegal and sometimes unspeakable acts, mutilating those who cross him. Here childhood innocence and dreams meet the reality of day-to-day survival and violence, during Hindu-Muslim riots, forcing choices that should never have to be made. Irani (The Cripple and His Talismans, 2005) is a gifted storyteller, and this book, Dickensian in its plot and its vivid prose, is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. Michele Leber
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Written by Anosh Irani
Format: Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Anchor Canada
ISBN: 978-0-385-66229-1 (0-385-66229-7)
Review By: Diana Rohini LaVigne, Indian Life & Style Magazine
As you watch the life of a ten-year-old orphan unfold in the darks streets and hidden places of Bombay, you feel the tension; simple beauty and the developing complexities come alive as you turn each page.
Doses of religious devotion and questioning weave its way throughout the story as the boy, Chamdi moves from the safety of the inner sanctums of an orphanage to the hard, cold, unforgiving street life of India.
Chamdi is ultimately looking for a place of solace which he named Kahunsha but instead finds himself among beggars, thieves and violent criminals. He brings a glimmer of hope to a brother and sister and shares his vision to escape to a land far away where they can all live in harmony.
But an evil-minded underworld don toys with those less fortunate and controls not just the streets but the people who live there. Violence erupts and shows the inner strength of the young Chamdi but coming of age comes with a price. He starts to become part of the very society that has disgusted him in the past.
This book was so well written that I read it in one day too engrossed in what will happen next. It was a disturbing book that opens ones eyes up to modern day slavery, the plight of children in poor regions of India and how easily a person's life can change with a mere stroke of luck. It was the expert writing style that delivered such a strong flavor for the characters that I felt like reaching out to assist the helpless Chamdi during his times of need. The book will give reader's a feel for India with its tantalizing descriptions of the smells, tastes and visuals Chamdi experienced. It's not a book worth reading once, but twice.