If Salman Rushdie praises your work as lush and the New Yorker publishes one of your stories before you are old enough to rent a car, chances are that you are talented.
Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard is the first novel by Kiran Desai. In the town of Shahkot, in the shadow of the Himalayan foothills, lives Sampath Chawla, a bored, dreamy Post Office clerk distinguishing himself with lacklustre career ambitions. When he manages to lose his job, his father, Mr Chawla, despairs that his son will ever amount to anything; his mother, Kulfi, says little, but then, she did come from a mad family; his sister Pinky finds him irritating and exasperating; his paternal grandmother, Ammaji, however, is convinced he will come good. Overwhelmed by the attention, Sampath decides to climb a tree in the Guava Orchard to be alone, to clear his thoughts, a deed that, unfortunately for Sampath, has quite the opposite effect. Convinced he is a hermit, people gather to hear his thoughts: this sets in motion events that will affect not only Sampath and his family, but the people of the district, the Chief Medical Officer, the Superintendent of Police, the Army Brigadier, the University researcher, the District Collector and even a spy from the Atheist Society. This novel has a cast of amusing characters, a plot with a few surprises and is filled with wonderful prose like: “A passing car sent its searchlight-glare crazy and liquid over the sides of the buildings and into the trees, revealing not the colours, the daylight solidity of things, but a world of dark gaps cut from an empty skin of light”. Desai is skilled at creating atmosphere and this novel has a uniquely Indian feel. This novel was a pleasure to read and it is easy to see why it won the Betty Trask Award in 1998.