The life, music and dreams of an Indian street kid
Dancing to the Flute by Manisha Jolie Amin reveals the enchanting lyrical story of Kalu an Indian street kid. When he found himself alone in the quiet village of Hastinapore he has no family, no name and no identity. Growing up as an orphan in a small rural village Kalu has leaned to be street smart. He has no worldly possessions but he makes two good friends. A hardworking boy named Bal who is a solitary buffalo keeper and Malti a house servant for the loudly spoken Mistress Ganga Ba. Kalu is a mild boy who carves out an existence and makes himself known to various towns people who entrust him to run errands in exchange for small payments such as a meal. When he has time Kalu likes to perch high in the branches of the banyan tree and to roll a leaf into a “flute” and make music. At these times he feels calm and is able to simply relax and enjoy life’s beauties. One day Kalu’s foot is injured. This has the potential to kill Kalu as he battles with the infection and the loss of his mobility and thus his capability to work and earn his livelihood. One day whilst perched high in the tree Kalu’s resonating music attracts the attention of a travelling healer, Vaid.
Vaid offers to heal Kalu’s festering foot. A tempting but terrifying offer. Kalu is terrified of the price that he will have to pay for this favour however given his deteriorating condition he has no option but to accept. Vaid lays out the payment plan which will entail Kalu entering into an arrangement where he will be committed to becoming a music apprentice studying under the tuition of the Vaid’s famous but reclusive musician brother. This pact will require Kalu to leave his small town, to leave behind his friends who are his created “family” and to alter his existence in every way. It is to be a new beginning.
After a very unique dream Kalu comes into possession of a real wooden flute and a vision for his future.
Kalu travels to the remote mountains and is greeted by the Vaid’s brother. A strict and cantankerous music teacher named Guruji. A stern man who has shut himself off from the world and is somewhat disgruntled and unwelcoming to the newcomer Kalu. None the less the music teaching begins.
As Kalu grows both physically and mentally so too does his musical skill. Unintentionally and without realising it, Kalu’s flute playing and company breathes new life into his teacher Guruji.
Kalu comes to realise that the flute itself is not the real gift. He comes to terms with the fact that the true gift that he has is his musical skill and that through that he can connect with people and create his own family and strengthen his identity.
This novel is beautiful, lyrical and uplifting. It contains hope, sorrow and joy. However at its core is the very innocent beauty of youth, the pure delight and transformative power of music and the quintessential importance of dreaming.
An integral sense of community and individual identity as well as the importance of friendships.
The author Manisha Jolie Amin was born in Kenya but grew up in Australia. This is the author’s first novel and is well worth the read.