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The Song of Kahunsha [Paperback]

Anosh Irani
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 22 2006
Abandoned as an infant, ten-year-old Chamdi has spent his entire life in a Bombay orphanage. There he has learned to find solace in his everyday surroundings: the smell of the first rains, the vibrant pinks and reds of the bougainvilleas that blossom in the courtyard, the life-size statue of Jesus, the "beautiful giant," to whom he confides his hopes and fears in the prayer room. Though he rarely ventures outside the orphanage, he entertains an idyllic fantasy of what the city is like – a paradise he calls Kahunsha, "the city of no sadness," where children play cricket in the streets and where people will become one with all the colours known to man.

Chamdi’s quiet life takes a sudden turn, however, when he learns that the orphanage will be shut down by land developers. He decides that he must run away in search of his long-lost father, taking nothing with him but the blood-stained white cloth he was left in as a baby.

Outside the walls of the orphanage, Chamdi quickly discovers that Bombay is nothing like Kahunsha. The streets are filthy and devoid of colour, and no one shows him an ounce of kindness. Just as he’s about to faint from hunger, two seasoned street children offer help: the lovely, sarcastic Guddi and her brother, the charming, scarred, and crippled Sumdi. After their father was crushed by a car before their eyes, the children were left to care for their insane mother and their infant brother. They soon initiate Chamdi into the brutal life of the city’s homeless, begging all day and handing over most of his earnings to Anand Bhai, a vicious underworld don who will happily mutilate or kill whoever dares to defy him.

Determined to escape the desperation, filth, and violence of their lives, Guddi and Sumdi recruit Chamdi into their plot to steal from a temple. But when the robbery goes terribly awry, Chamdi finds himself in an even worse situation. The city has erupted in Hindu-Muslim violence and, held in Anand Bhai’s fierce grip, Chamdi is presented with a choice that threatens to rob him of his innocence forever.

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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.

From Booklist

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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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Beautiful March 23 2006
I was having a very high expectation for this book, especially after reading his previous book: The Cripple and his talismans. Like the previous book, Anosh Irani uses words so beautifully and somewhat darkly. I liked The Song of Kahunsha more than his previous one, because it contained heart-warming sentences as well. They just grabbed my heart. I highly recommend this book to everybody.
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5.0 out of 5 stars it was great Jan. 30 2012
By fa23
it was one of the best books i have ever read. i highly recommend it to anyone who likes reading about other cultures because it exposes you to a different world inside india, that indian movies dont readily portray. i honestly believe that this book has the potential to be turned into a is that good. highly recommend it to everyone. its not long so even if this isnt your favorite genre, you will get through this.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Snooze Sept. 20 2007
By D
Slow paced and repetitive best describes this book. The prose plodded along and bored me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Song of Kahunsha Is Worth Reading Twice! July 19 2007
By Diana Rohini LaVigne - Published on
Title: The Song of Kahunsha
Written by Anosh Irani
Category: Fiction
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.
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