During my reading of “Sermon in the Guava Tree” by Kiran Desai, I must say that I was refreshed with its touch of humor and with the author’s ability to describe its characters simply using situations and their dialogue. The story was interesting to me for many reasons; mainly that despite being a short story, it gave lots of details about Indian culture. From reading this story, one gets a good picture of Indian family, priorities in an Indian family, cultural norms, customs and even gender norms (like the description of what to look for when choosing a woman for a bride). I was very impressed with this aspect of the story and I was especially taken with the very animated and humorous character of Mr. Chawla who portrayed an anxious and ambitious Indian father.
I noticed some relations to this story and to “My Son the Fanatic” by Hanif Kureishi when Mr. Chawla states to his wife, “Your son leaves home and climbs up a tree and you say ‘Let him be.’ With you as his mother no wonder he has turned out like this. How can I keep normality within this family? I take it as a full-time job and yet it defies possibility. We must formulate a plan. Only monkeys climb up trees” (p.1228). The relation between these two stories can be seen here because this quote displays a father’s frustration because his son is emitting a behavior unlike his and one that he refuses to understand and even blames on delusion. This frustration as a father with his son to be a certain way can cause anger, confusion and a refusal to see rational reasons as to why they are acting this way. This is so because such actions are so outside of the father’s or parent’s conception of how one is to live from their perspective that insanity or fanaticism must be the only conclusion. Furthermore, in the father’s frustration, they become the “insane” one’s or even “the fanatics”.
In the article “Sermon in the Guava Tree”, the author expresses a relation of this story to Buddhism when they say, “This is a clear parallel to how Buddha began his life with a vast amount of things but left them for a sense of fulfillment and peace and went to sit underneath a Bodhi Tree in order to begin his search for enlightenment”. I found this to be interesting since there are some similarities between Hinduism and Buddhism. But I also found it to be interesting because when we examine both cases of the Buddha and of Sampath, we can see that they went against the grains of their society so that they could be enlightened to a more substantial truth. In these instances, both figures were looked at oddly for going against societal expectations and norms, however, both characters displayed that society’s conventions are not always the road to that which is better or produces the most.
We as people often frown upon different demonstrations of life styles because when someone does something different it calls our own way of living into question by asserting that their way is the way. However, once that lifestyle in some way affirms our own or brings about a production that we can understand and identify with we are no longer against it. Such as, when Sampath gains wealth and popularity among the community for his spiritual gifts. I think that a lot can be said about this story and I especially was taken with the author’s ability to make her words come alive.
Greenblatt, Stephen, and Jahan Ramanzi. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. W.W. Norton, 2018.