Hello again!! This week I will review Dancing to the Flute. This is Manisha Jolie Amin’s first book. It was published in February of this year. I think that this is a great book and I will be looking forward to hearing from her in the future.
The book is written in the form of a raag. The raag is a melodic mode of Indian music. A raag is a melody based on five or more notes. The mood it conveys is more important than the notes that are used.
This book is a quick read and I was very caught up in the characters and the story. It felt like I was there with them in India. Kalu is a poor street kid who does errands and odd jobs to earn food and money. Kalu does not know who his parents are or his birthday. He was abandoned as a child. When his foot becomes infected he becomes unable to work. A healer or vaid treats his foot, but Kalu must pay him back. Kalu is mysteriously led to find a rosewood flute by a snake that he charms with his music. When the vaid returns Kalu offers the flute to him as payment. The vaid instead requests that Kalu move to his brother, Guruji’s house to live and learn the flute. This begins Kalu’s journey in life.
Kalu leaves his two friends Bal and Malti to live with Guruji and his servant Ashwin. Here he learns about the flute, music and love and affection. He becomes like a son to Guruji. Guruji’s most important lesson to Kalu is that love doesn’t come without pain. Bal is a buffalo herder. His family sold him for money. Kalu wishes to share his good wealth with Bal. He proposes that Bal come live with him and Guruji and Ashwin, but Bal wishes for independence and refuses. Later in the book Bal takes a fatal fall off a cliff. Malti is a servant girl who is waiting for her brother to graduate from college so that she will have money for a dowry. She ends up in an arranged marriage with a man who doesn’t love her and treats her poorly. She seeks affection and has an affair. When her husband realizes she is pregnant he tries to douse her with kerosene in an attempt to kill her. Kalu offers to take care of her and the baby, but Malti wants to raise her daughter on her own and be her own person. Ganga Ba is the woman who employed Malti prior to marriage. We find out that she was a second daughter and that her mother tried to poison her. When that didn’t work her father tried to kill her by pushing her down a well.
Although these are all tragic scenes in the book, the book is not really that dark and depressing. It shows how each character deals with life as it is dealt and becomes stronger and grows. Kalu leaves his home in the mountains with Guruji near the end to be on his own and make his own way in London, but then realizes that his home is in India with the people that he loves.
The characters and events in this book are believable. It is well written and the story flows well. There is a magic element of music woven throughout the book. Right before the end Kalu’s music saves a boy from jumping off a bridge and committing suicide. Many words used are not English words, but they are usually followed by the English equivalent. I give this book high praise 5 out of 5 stars. A must read!!!
Indian Fiction Suggestions:
- Playing The Flute (erikawhatzittooya.wordpress.com)
- The Different Types of Flutes (music.answers.com)