Analyse Desai’s presentation of rural Indian culture, and comment on its importance in the novel Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard was written by Kiran Desai in 1998. This satiric novel is based on the lifestyle in a small North Indian town of Shahkot versus the simplicity and freedom of life in a guava tree. Desai cultivates the framework of social class, Indian traditions, education, urbanization to present the mundane world of rural Indians. In this essay I will explore how Desai uses a variety of linguistic and literary techniques to help define the characters, convey the themes.
Also I will show how she presents ideas of rural Indian culture and explain its importance in the novel. In Chapter 1, Desai emphasises the heat of the summer through a hyperbole, “enveloped the whole of Shahkot”. This gives a powerful imagery of Shahkotians feeling claustrophobic and the adjectives “murky yellow haze” connotes a confusing and gloomy atmosphere within Shahkot. The weather here is demonstrated at the beginning of her novel, providing the readers with a quick backdrop of Shahkot and also to inform the “terrible conditions of the drought”.
Desai’s immediate theme of weather is produced to show the negative impact of the heat on the people of Shahkot. In addition the theme of weather is significant in the novel as it foreshadows some of the misfortune or gifted situations that lie ahead for some of the characters. For example Desai uses powerful imagery of lighting, “winters day…smoky evening, then night” when the eccentric Kulfi notices “a shadow fell across the sun”.
The sudden daunting imagery of Shahkot darkening foreshadows a possible unfortunate event and tricks the reader into thinking something terrible is going to happen. However it is the opposite and an atmosphere of excitement, joy and satisfaction takes place as Kulfi excitingly exclaims “Here comes the rain! ” This is a special moment for the whole of Shahkot as rain to them is like a blessing, now they would be able to grow their crops, produce and earn a living.
Another way Desai presents rural Indian culture is with the use of dialogues from each character that is directly exposed through third person narrative. “Sshhhhh, he said out loud” Sampath’s annoyance is supported by the use of onomatopoeia, “Rrrr…Phurrr…Wheee”, this adds humour to the novel and perhaps fulfils Desai’s comical and entertainment purpose. The sounds are then repeated emphasising his frustration and Sampath’s family continue preventing him from sleeping especially because all five of them are sleeping in the same room.
In chapter two, “Twenty years later”, Desai allows the reader to understand the struggle of overcrowdings in the homes of Shahkot. Sampath’s issue of privacy and peace gains sympathy as well as laughter from the readers as we get an insight of his frustration, anger and desire to escape from the hullabaloo of his own family. This is important to acknowledge as it demonstrates a typical issue that a young working class Indian undergoes due to insufficient housing caused by unemployment or unequal income distribution and Sampath is one of them.
One of the causes for this is Indian autocracy and the lack of opportunity to go onto higher education, Sampath is therefore less likely to get a professional and highly respected job that his father Mr Chawla aspires to such as a lawyer or doctor instead he is stuck inside the confined post office. Furthermore social class structure being one of the key themes in this novel can be seen through Desai’s relaxing presentation of Chief Medical Officer also known as CMO in the novel.
The luxury imagery of CMO and his living style is shown through his peaceful position, “sitting quietly there on the veranda and the adverbs “gently and fragrantly” used to describe his cup of tea that reflects his happy mood as he waits for the paper to be delivered. This is juxtaposed with CMO disturbance caused by the cheeky newspaper deliverer who ignorantly throws the paper onto CMO’s breakfast tray causing CMO’s tone to harden immediately, “Really, you are too zealous, shouted the CMO”. Desai juxtaposes the preposition of CMO sitting on the veranda, whilst looking down towards the front yard the newspaper deliverer can be visualised.
The preposition connotes the distinction between social classes and shows us the “zealous” feelings of the deliverer and prideful emotions of the CMO. Another way Desai presents rural Indian culture is through the closeness of the Shahkot neighbourhood. In chapter 7, Sampath finally escapes into the Guava Orchard and fulfils his desires of peace and tranquillity. However Sampath’s family chase after him with concern, along with support from the rest of the town. One of the ways the news was exposed of Sampath going AWOL was because, “People visited their friends a great deal… hey talked the whole time, and in this way information has passed back and forth. ”
Desai’s use of complex sentences implies the quickness and vast amount of people receiving the news. It also reflects the communities concern and care for one another. This characteristic of the community is emphasised through Desai’s common use of hyperbole as even the most remote and isolated places”, was aware of the news. Desai presents Shahkot as a developing city environment including the post office where Sampath works that looks “like so many government buildings painted yellow. This simile emphasises the boredom of having to commonly work for the government, hence leaving no room in Shahkot for any other employment opportunities. Furthermore Desai largely contrasts the village where the Chawla family lives with the natural setting in Chapter 6 of the Guava orchard where Sampath escapes to. “carried him so far away and so high up”, a powerful imagery of Sampath climbing up a Guava tree provides the reader with a sense of excitement and hope for Sampath and this experience is shared with the reader as Desai uses emotive language.
For example Desai uses simile’s, “like a gust of wind”, this implies Sampaths relief of escaping from the hullabaloo of his family and work as he “melts into nothing like a ghost. ” The noun “ghost” connotes dehumanization as a positive action as he wants to hide and disappear from his current life in Shahkot. Also foreshadows Sampaths unpredictable false talent of a guru that Shahkotians fall into believing that he is has superior power.
In conclusion, Desai uses characters from different social backgrounds and themes that are common in India to present rural Indian culture. Desai’s novel informs us that social struggle still prevails today such as the Indian caste system and I have shown this through my analysis of the main character Sampath and the superiority of the Government. Desai also conveys the message that the real rural area of India is in the nature of the Guava Orchard and not Shahkot as it can be seen for ignorantly replacing its rural aspects with government buildings and further urbanization.
Desai shows the readers that she disagrees with the backward traditions of Indians through her satirical techniques. However she also shows her likings for Indian food, celebration and clothing through her vast use of similes and descriptive complex sentences. Desai presents rural Indian culture through events, themes and characters to help readers understand why certain characters behave in a certain way and she provides the readers an insight of Indian culture as having imbalances of good and bad.