Source- review copy
Publisher- Allen & Unwin
Publication date- 26th March, 2012
Synopsis: Abandoned as a young child, Kalu, a cheeky street kid, has against all odds carved out a life for himself in rural India. In the quiet village of Hastinapore, Kalu makes friends: Bal, the solitary buffalo boy, and Malti, a gentle servant girl, who, with her mistress, Ganga Ba, has watched out for Kalu from the first day. Perched high in the branches of a banyan tree, Kalu chooses a leaf, rolls it tightly and, doing what he’s done for as long as he can remember, blows through it. His pure simple notes dance through the air attracting a travelling healer whose interest will change Kalu’s life forever, setting him on a path he would never have dreamed possible, testing his self-belief and his friendships. With all the energy and colour of India and its people, Dancing to the Flute is a magical, heart-warming story of this community’s joys and sorrows, the nature of friendship and the astonishing transformative powers of music.
Review: Dancing to the Flute is an absorbing and inspirational tale about a young Indian boy named Kalu and girl named Malti, written by Australian author, Manisha Jolie Amin.
Kalu is an orphan child who stumbles into the small rural village of Hastinapore where he makes friends with the buffalo boy, Bal, a mild-natured servant girl, Malti, and her mistress the candid Ganga Ba. Kalu has no material possessions except for his flute, made of leaf.
A healer, Vaid comes to the town and offers to help Kalu when he injures his foot and is at risk of infection- for a price. Fearful of what debt he will owe, Kalu tentatively follows Vaid into a room after his foot has healed and Vaid asks him to play his flute. Vaid takes Kalu away from the village for many weeks and leaves him alone to strengthen his musical ability in solitary. Ganga Ba and Malti are surprised by how much they miss Kalu when he is gone. Day and night, Kalue practices to play the flute and during this time comes across a very special flute, designed only for him.
When Vaid returns, he takes Kalu back to Hastinapore and makes an offer: to become a student of Guruji, a famous flute- player who lives in isolation among the mountains. It is a remarkable opportunity for a young boy in poverty and Ganga Ba and Malti encourage him to go and make something of himself. Kalu promises to return one day and help his friend Bal.
Guruji is a reclusive musician who is reluctant at first to accept Kalu as a student, but during the years they work together they form a very close father-son bond. Kalu grows as a musician, a boy into a man, and into a person who can have relationships and feel safe in the company of others- despite his early start in life.
Kalu learns to read and write and keeps in contact with his friends in Hastinapore via letters and we also see Malti grow into a young woman and deal with the challenges of her gender in India and overcome the obstacles in her path. Kalu and Malti are such engaging characters and I really enjoyed seeing them grow both in age and in disposition The secondary characters in the story are just as interesting.
The author has a wonderful way with language that finds a nice balance between literary descriptions and moving forward in the story. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this book as it is probably something I wouldn’t normally pick up in a bookstore, but as I am planning a trip to India this year, I was drawn to the story of these young kids in an Indian village. Dancing to the Flute is a beautiful, uplifting story about young lives, music and those that dare to dream.
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About the author: Manisha Jolie Amin was born in Kenya and moved to Australia with her family when she was five. Sydney is her home, although she travels frequently to both India and England to visit family. Manisha lives with her husband, son and cat. When not writing, she works for a children’s welfare charity. In 2011 Manisha received a PhD from the University of Technology, Sydney. Dancing to the Flute is her first novel. You can find more information about Manisha at www.manishajolieamin.com.
This book was read as part of the these two 2012 challenges: