Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard

by Kiran Desai
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What theme is present in the first four chapters of Hullaboo in the Guava Orchard?  

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You might like to consider how the theme of repression and the difficulty of finding meaning in a life that is otherwise characterised by meaningless labour is presented through the character of Sampath's mother, Kulfi, in these first few chapters. She of course has a direct impact on Sampath and his desire for something mroe out of life. Kulfi is a character who continuously expresses a sense of longing for some greater purpose. We are told, for example, that her house "was small for her big desire." This desire takes various forms, but at the beginning of the novel, we see this desire manifests itself in the form of food; as her pregnancy causes her to crave endless quantities of good. Even though there is a massive drought, Kulfi bribes the various market sellers to give her food and when she begins to feel the baby inside of her move, she begins to draw various scenes depicting eating that cover the walls of a family home.

What is interesting is that as her child continues to grow inside of her, she does not merely become awkward and uncomfortable, but we are told that:

She seemed to be claiming all the earth's energy for herself, sapping it dry, leaving it withered, shrivelled and yellow.

Kulfi is therefore a character who in her life seems to symbolise the search for meaning and significance against the backdrop of an uncaring world that thrusts menial tasks onto us that claim our lives. This is something that is shown to separate her from the rest of the townspeople, as she sits alone and focuses her mind on "a point invisible to everybody but herself." Clearly, in Kulfi, we can see the same desire to be significant that drives the character of her son and forms such a thematic basis of this novel.


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