Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard

by Kiran Desai

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The story begins with the birth of Sampath Chawla, the unassuming and accidental protagonist of Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard. It is at the tail-end of a punishing drought in the city of Shahkot, India, and at the same time as Sampath is born, a giant airplaneration of food and supplies crashes into a tree outside the Chawla's house, signaling prosperity to an otherwise starving town. Fast-forward about twenty years, and the novel picks up again with Sampath miserably performing his menial job as a mail sorter at the local post office. Events draw to a culmination and frustration mounts when Sampath loses his postal job after performing an impromptu cross-dressing striptease at his boss's daughter's wedding.

Having been confined to the house in disgrace, Sampath runs away from home and takes refuge in the branches of a guava tree in an abandoned orchard outside of town. At first family and townsfolk think he is mad, but in an inspired moment of self-preservation, Sampath, who had spent his time in the post office reading other people's mail, reveals some choice secrets about his persecutors and convinces them that he is, in fact, clairvoyant. It is not long before Mr. Chawla sees the commercial possibilities of having a holy man in the family, and quite soon the guava orchard becomes the latest stop along the spiritual tourism trail. A true hullabaloo erupts in the aftermath, as alcoholic monkeys, suspicious journalists, family members, and officious government workers all try to control the escalating noise ensuing from a confused young man's climb into a fruit tree.

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