Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Song of Kahunsha

Happy Thanksgiving to the folks down below the 49th! With no snow on the ground hereabouts it almost feels like Thanksgiving today. With the economic troubles seeming to worsen daily, one could forget that we have much to be thankful for in North America, notably the freedom - knock on wood - from fundamentalist religious violence as erupted in Bombay (Mumbai), India yesterday.
It was just last week that I blogged about Bombay, talking about Salman Rushdie's comments in Edmonton about feeling at home in Bombay. He mentioned as well his feeling that the threat of communal religious violence seemed to be rising of late. Since last week I've stumbled upon some novels set in or about Bombay that seem apropos today.
The Song of Kahunsha is a 2006 novel by Vancouver writer Anosh Irani. He was born and grew up in Bombay before moving to Canada in 1998. He told the Calgary Herald:
Growing up in Bombay was the best thing that happened to me. Living in a place like that teaches you to handle pain. Because you see it everywhere. There is no way to escape the pain. And it gives you a sense of humour. Bombay has a great energy. But it is very dark now. Maybe it was always dark. Maybe the injustice and the corruption were always there. It just doesn't change. Even with the city doing so well with technology and economy. The real change will come only when we can change in other ways, poverty, injustice, corruption.
The Song of Kahunsha was one of the CBC Canada Reads picks for the 2007 session (promoted by writer Donna Morrissey). The novel is about an orphan boy named Chamdi who leaves his orphanage in search of his father as the 1993 Bombay religious riots are breaking out. Chamdi is befriended by Guddi, a young girl who is supporting her mother by begging on the streets. Chamdi joins her and is soon caught up in the violence, around him. Reviews mention 'heartbreaking but hopeful' a lot. It reminds me of one of the most depressing films I've ever seen, also about an orphaned boy on the streets of Bombay, Salaam Bombay!
Other Bombay novels:
and of course, Toronto master Rohinton Mistry's fabulous books, all set in Bombay:
and on a lighter note, the mystery novel series starring Bombay police detective, Inspector Ghote, written by Englishman H.R.F. Keating:


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