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Book Review of "The Song of Kahunsha"

 by Anosh Irani

Alternating award-winning plays with critically acclaimed novels, Anosh Irani is one of Canada’s fastest rising literary stars.  He commands our attention again with The Song of Kahunsha, his second novel.

 Ten-year-old Chamdi has spent his entire life in a Bombay orphanage.  When that orphanage is suddenly forced to close, Chamdi sets off on his own, into the streets of the city to search for the father who left him so many years ago.  He is lost and alone, quickly learning how to survive Bombay’s underbelly from Sumdi and Guddi, a brother and sister who also call the streets their home. 

 

 Irani’s first novel, The Cripple and His Talismans, was driven by the magic that lives on the city’s streets.  In this novel, however, the religious tension rising on the streets in 1993 has Chamdi dreamily imagining a better, magical place; a Bombay that he calls Kahunsha.  As the story unfolds, the reader slowly realizes that there is no magic to be found here, and must reconsider the harshness of this reality.

 Options narrowing, Chamdi must choose between a life of starvation and sleeping on the streets, or mere poverty while serving Anand Bhai, the leader of the city’s crime community.  The Song of Kahunsha effectively explores the definition of family and the importance of loyalty while simultaneously exposing the sorrowful beauty that’s obvious yet often undetectable when we’re faced with adversity.

 Even as he chooses what he feels is the lesser of two evils, Chamdi leaves the reader with a sense of hope that uplifts as the curtain falls:

 “So he made up his mind to achieve something so wonderful that if he were to tell anyone his life story, it would take days to tell, even weeks, and the ending would be a happy one…”


 

 

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