Set in a rural village in India, we have Kalu abandoned and now a street urchin trying desperately to live earning his living in whatever way he can, trying to keep out of trouble but also a boy with ambition, someone who wants to climb out of the gutter and make something of his life.
Aided by a medical man who sees hears the boy play a tune with a rolled up leaf, this Vaid realises before anyone else does that Kalu has a very rare talent and he sends Kalu on a quest which ultimately leads to Kalu being apprenticed to a Master Musician who will guide, instruct and protect Kalu in the vast music world of India.
The story of a village boy making good is a wonderful story, very simply told. Very descriptive of the world of classical music in India which even today holds sway despite the overwhelming influence of Bollywood, rap and hip hop.
The intrinsic goodness of Kalu embodied in the story is also its focus - the other characters are revolving around him. We have Ganga the richer, upper middle class widow who decides that Kalu is also her protegee, we have Malti the young domestic in Ganga's employ whose life changes with her marriage but who is also independent of spirit and who decides to stand up for herself and behind it all, we have the guidance of both the Vaid and his brother the Guru who support Kalu throughout.
This is a story of a community and the story of the community is woven throughout the story.
Rural India in the present times at its best. I first heard about this book on Cornflower Books.