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  • Written by Amulya Malladi
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Song of the Cuckoo Bird

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A Novel

Written by Amulya MalladiAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Amulya Malladi

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List Price: $9.99

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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 400 | ISBN: 978-0-307-41670-4
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt|Reader Reviews

Synopsis

A sweeping epic set in southern India, where a group of outcasts create a family while holding tight to their dreams.

Barely a month after she is promised in marriage, eleven-year-old orphan Kokila comes to Tella Meda, an ashram by the Bay of Bengal. Once there, she makes a courageous yet foolish choice that alters the fabric of her life: Instead of becoming a wife and mother, youthful passion drives Kokila to remain at the ashram.

Through the years, Kokila revisits her decision as she struggles to make her mark in a country where untethered souls like hers merely slip through the cracks. But standing by her conviction, she makes a home in Tella Meda alongside other strong yet deeply flawed women. Sometimes they are her friends, sometimes they are her enemies, but always they are her family.

Like Isabel Allende, Amulya Malladi crafts complex characters in deeply atmospheric settings that transport readers through different eras, locales, and sensibilities. Careening from the 1940s to the present day, Song of the Cuckoo Bird chronicles India’s tumultuous history as generations of a makeshift family seek comfort and joy in unlikely places–and from unlikely hearts.

Excerpt

Tella Meda, the House with the White Roof

They took strips of coconut leaves and made dolls with them. The supple leaves could be twisted and turned without breaking. They would use red tilakam to make the eyes, nose, and mouth of the dolls. A small swatch of white cloth would sometimes become a sari or a shirt. Then the dolls would be forgotten, left to dry in the sun when the call for lunch or dinner came from downstairs.

Kokila’s earliest memories of living in Tella Meda, the house with the white roof, were of making those dolls with Vidura and Chetana. Closest in age to her, they were her best friends in the ashram, and together they got into a lot of mischief. They tied leftover crackers from deepavali to the tail of the cat, Brahma; they tortured those who sat in meditation by making noises and faces; and they ran around the courtyard, squealing and screeching in the afternoon after lunch, while everyone was trying to take a nap.

Those were the happy times, Kokila would think later on when she looked back. Those were, alas, only happy memories.

Kokila came to Tella Meda an orphan, a month after her marriage. She had just turned eleven.

In those days girls were married before they reached puberty, but they couldn’t go to their husband’s home until after they menstruated. For Kokila the three years before she menstruated were spent at Tella Meda, the home of her late father’s friend Ramanandam Sastri.

Built right by the Bay of Bengal in the small coastal town of Bheemunipatnam in southern India, the house with the white roof was not a conventional home. Tella Meda was a home for the weary, the only safe harbor for lost souls, the last refuge for some and the only home for others.

Tella Meda was an ashram, a religious dwelling where a guru led her folk to the right path through prayer and the reading of scripture. But it was not a conventional ashram. The guru, Charvi, refused to be called “guru” or “Amma,” as the norm was for those as enlightened as she. Charvi went by just Charvi and would not call her home an ashram but just a home, hers, which she willingly and openly shared with those who were in need.

Tella Meda was a beautiful house, the most beautiful house Kokila had ever seen and definitely the most beautiful house she would ever live in. On a full moon night the house glittered as if diamonds were studded all over it and its outer walls shimmered from the reflection of the waters of the Bay of Bengal.

The foundation of the house was first laid in 1947 but every time construction began the hurricane season arrived with a vengeance, destroying whatever had been built. Finally in 1955 a man named Srikant Somayajula succeeded in building a house on that foundation. It was a house unrivaled in Bheemunipatnam for its size and opulence.

As soon as Kokila walked past the gate with Ramanandam Sastri and stepped into the big front yard and garden of Tella Meda she was struck with awe. A large verandah covered with stone tiles was sprawled in front, separated from the garden by an ornate knee-high cement balcony. Big decorative flowers molded out of cement and sand adorned the short white balcony. Opening into the verandah were doors from four rooms, one left of the main entrance and three on the right.

The left door led into Charvi’s room and the three on the right led into guest rooms, which housed the devotees of Charvi. Many came to Tella Meda to give their respects to Charvi and to find some peace and quiet in the house with the white roof by the Bay of Bengal.

“This is the puja room,” Ramanandam Sastri told her as he led her into Tella Meda through the main entrance, “and the music room.”

A beautiful mahogany temple was the platform for a large golden Venkateshwara Swami and his consort, Lakshmi. Several other idols of gods and goddesses—Ganesha, the god of obstacles; Saraswati, the goddess of education—and a large marble Shivaling were arranged on mahogany platforms within the temple.

The temple had obviously been cared for; everything was polished and shone. Fresh flowers from the front garden—red and white roses, red hibiscus, and small white jasmines—lay at the feet of the gods and goddesses and the smell of sandalwood incense pervaded the room.

Between the temple area and the music area a bright yellow and red coconut straw mat was laid down as a divider. It spanned from the front door to the door into the interior of the house. The music area of the room was covered with a brown cotton rug; a veena, a pair of tablas, a tanpoora, a harmonium, and small and large cymbals lay on the rug, leaning against each other.

Kokila wondered who kept the large house clean. Ramanandam Sastri had warned her that she would have some chores, as did everyone else who lived in the ashram. Kokila hoped her task would not be to clean the house because the size of it was intimidating.

Past the temple room, Kokila stepped into another verandah and gawked as she saw how big the house really was. Coming from a small house that was more hut than real house, she felt as if she were stepping into a palace.

Beyond the verandah was a huge courtyard covered in the same stone tile as the front and inside verandahs. Ten rooms surrounded the courtyard, where clothes of different sizes and in different colors hung on clotheslines that crisscrossed the courtyard. Tulasi had been planted in a cement pot in the center of the courtyard. The pot was painted red and yellow, auspicious colors that signified kumkum and turmeric and were the colors of a married woman.

The bathrooms were on the right side; they seemed to have been built with less care than the house. The doors were made out of cheap wood, not like the doors and windows elsewhere, and the walls were uneven, not smooth as in the puja room.

There was one bathroom and three toilets. This was a luxury, Kokila knew, and she was now convinced she had fallen into a basket of ladoos. When her father had died and the question of where she would live until she could go to her husband arose, Ramanandam Sastri arrived like a hero to arrange the funeral and take her away with him.

She couldn’t believe she was going to live in a house with a bathroom and toilets. There no longer would be the need to take a steel mug with water and find a discreet place to go in the mornings. And she could take a bath in a real bathroom, not a makeshift one covered with bedsheets.

One room adjoined the bath area but Ramanandam Sastri didn’t show her the room, nor did he tell her what it was for.

A staircase from the courtyard led up to the open terrace where Ramanandam Sastri said some of the kids slept on warm summer nights. The Bay of Bengal lay ahead, an unbelievable blue, shimmering like a silk sari, and Kokila truly fell in love with the house when she saw the bay.

Ramanandam Sastri had then taken her to the kitchen to meet Subhadra, who lived in the ashram and took care of all the cooking. Subhadra was a portly woman, her skin dark as coal, her hair slick with coconut oil and tied in a neat bun. She wore small gold earrings, a thin gold chain, and two thin gold bangles, one on each hand.

Subhadra had a soft voice that Kokila would soon learn turned gruff when she became angry.

“This house used to be grander,” Subhadra told Kokila as she gave her a tiffin of idlis left over from breakfast and some coconut chutney. “Out in the verandah and courtyard you can still see the tiles, brought from Mysore, especially made for Tella Meda. Srikant Somayajula, a contractor from Hyderabad, built this house. But during the gruhapravesham itself his wife died. He never lived here; no one from his family did. Imagine that! Some people have terrible luck.”

Kokila ate the slightly hardened idli with the spicy coconut chutney and listened to Subhadra talk about the house, the people, Charvi, and everyone else.

Even though the kitchen was massive and could easily seat thirty people, meals were served outside in the verandah, Subhadra told Kokila, where a long table and a short one stood between thin strips of coconut straw mats for seating.

The kitchen had been built to feed an army. The stove had six burners instead of four and there were several large cupboards for storage. On the stone-tiled floor there was a wooden floor knife with its blade laid down, like a ship that had lost its mast. A large stone mortar stood on one side with an equally large pestle. It was used to make the idli and dosa mix from soaked urad dal and rice every Saturday and Sunday, Subhadra said, and she explained to Kokila that grinding the dal and rice was the worst thing she had to do every week.

“When the house was built all the rooms had ceiling fans. Not anymore, though,” Subhadra said as she fanned herself with a straw fan.

“What happened?” Kokila asked as she finished eating and washed her hands in the plate with her glass of water.

“Somayajula-garu was so distraught after his wife’s death that he left the house to looters and the like. When we came here the house was all but ruined,” Subhadra said. “We had to clean it all up, whitewash the walls. We set up the bathrooms; just had to, couldn’t have Charvi taking a chambu of water and going out, now, could we? But it has been all worth it—we live here rent free.”

“Rent free?” Kokila’s eyes widened.

“Hmm,” Subhadra said, and smiled. “Everyone should be so lucky to have a saint like Charvi live in their house. So, of course, Somayajula-garu doesn’t charge us a paisa.”

Charvi was Ramanandam Sastri’s daughter. There were different stories as to how Charvi became a guru and a representative of God itself and Kokila wasn’t sure what to believe. According to Subhadra, Charvi was goddess, guru, and saint all rolled into one.

“We found the house because Dr. Vishnu Mohan—he lives three houses down the road—and Sastri-garu are friends. So when Sastri-garu was looking for a house to rent, Doctor-garu suggested Tella Meda,” Subhadra said. “Did you know that it was Sastri-garu who first saw the light of knowledge in Charvi?”

Ramanandam Sastri had been living in Tenali when the alteration of his soul began and he saw the light of God in his daughter.

He hadn’t started out believing in God and Hinduism. He’d started out an atheist, always ridiculing his wife, Bhanumati, for her religious beliefs. Manikyam, his eldest daughter, with her fat pockmarked face, also turned to God; Ramanandam Sastri, who never learned to mince his words, told her that praying to God wouldn’t change the fact that she was ugly. But his second daughter, Lavanya, came out looking like a movie star. Her skin was light in color, her eyes light brown, almost catlike; she was beautiful. She grew up to be vain, stubborn, and shallow, and ultimately amounted to nothing.

And then Bhanumati had a third daughter. Ramanandam’s third daughter was ethereal and he named her Charvi, which means “beautiful.” When Charvi was but a week old, Ramanandam saw the light of God in her and deemed her a Devi, an Amma, a goddess. His sudden transformation from nonbeliever to believer was viewed with some skepticism by Bhanumati but she knew it was not her place to question her husband and she didn’t.

For years after Charvi was born Bhanumati did get not pregnant again and quietly endured the role of wife, mother, and particularly mother to an Amma. She was quiet and complacent and she fulfilled the duties prescribed to her.

Eight years after Charvi’s birth, the much-desired son was born. It had been a time of great joy, as both Bhanumati and her eldest daughter, Manikyam, were pregnant at the same time. And they each, by the grace of Lord Venkateshwara Swami, had a son.

Ramanandam named his son Vidura, for the great wise man from The Mahabharata who narrated the entire battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas to the blind king, Dhritrastra. Bhanumati died just a month after giving birth to her son because of a blood clot in her uterus, but not before she extracted a promise from eight-year-old Charvi that she would watch over her baby brother. It was a promise Charvi was unable to keep and until the day she died she felt the burden of that broken vow.

People who flocked to Ramanandam for his words, his books, and his writing didn’t question his ability to see a Devi, a goddess, in his daughter. The number of people who came to stay with Ramanandam increased dramatically. In the beginning it was students who came to discuss his work and pay their respects. Of course, everyone stayed for free.

Ramanandam could barely pay his bills on his meager schoolteacher’s salary and his book sales didn’t bring in much money even though he was quite a well-known writer among the intellectual elite. It was, after all, only the elite who could pretend to believe in Ramanandam’s theories that a woman had the right to independent living beyond the men in her life. Ramanandam wrote about a woman being a woman first and then being a daughter, sister, wife, or mother. He wrote about how man and woman were equal in nature and how he believed that a woman’s ability to give birth actually made her superior to man. Through his writings he encouraged women and men to break the traditional trappings in their life and be freethinkers and live a life unfettered with the customs and mores of an ancient culture.

Table of Contents

“I just finished reading "Song of the Cuckoo Bird" and I loved it.  I thought it was very helpful for the author to add the historical notes at the beginning of each chapter to put things in perspective.  I do not know much about India or Indian history so it was a wonderful way to learn about some history as well as to enjoy a good story.  I thought that Kokila was a wonderful main character and her story was very engaging.  All in all, a wonderful book.”-Deborah E. Moore

“I am completely enjoying "Song Of the Cuckoo Bird".  It is of much help to me that I understand some of the Indian Culture which makes this book all the more better for me.  So far it seems that it is not only a book about Kokila and the decisions she has made in her life but also about Tella Meda and how the lives of so many are effected by this guru home as they stay, go, come back, and live among each other.  They all seem to believe that the guru can help them but in reality it is another source that helps them from within.” -Stephanie Birchenough

“I absolutely loved it.  I have read all of Malladi's other books, and this is now my favorite.  Although she introduced a lot more characters in this novel, I found the plot easy to follow and all the characters were so well developed - they truly seemed to come to life.  The story itself was engaging and I loved the little snippets of history that she included.  I really found myself immersed in Indian culture and during those hours of reading I was as close to India as I may ever get.  She certainly fulfilled my wish of transporting me to another place and culture.I am a public librarian and I have always felt very confident recommending Malladi's books to our patrons.  I think this new novel will win her even more readers. I also thought the small interview between Malladi and her mother was just wonderful.  There was so much in this novel that teased the senses - Malladi's descriptions have the ability to create a rainbow of colors and smells. I also thought it was a very poignant and fitting conclusion.  This novel will definitely stay in my collection with the intention of being read again.” -Linda Skelly


“ I loved every minute of this story. What incredible characters. Malladi writes with depth and caring about all of the main characters who live in Tella Meda. Each of these people brings with them their own issues and personalities creating a novel rich in character development. It was interesting to read such a different tale of India and get a glimpse into the lives, culture and beliefs of India from such a different perspective. I would read other books by Amulya Malladi and I would definitely recommend this book to my friends. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to preview this wonderful tale.” -Kathy Patton

"I loved this book! Each woman had their own distinct story and reason for being at the ashram, yet there lives were intertwined by the fact that they lived together. For some, like Kokila, it seemed like where they wanted to be yet for others like Chetana, it was the opposite. In the end it seemed as if everyone had come to terms with their life and the decisions that had constituted it. It was also interesting to see how the choices available to the women changed over the years. I couldn't put the book down! It really transported me there." -Fleur Hartmann

Amulya Malladi|Author Q&A

About Amulya Malladi

Amulya Malladi - Song of the Cuckoo Bird

Photo © Soren Rasmussen

Amulya Malladi has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in journalism. Born and raised in India, she lived in the United States for several years before moving to Denmark, where she now lives on the island of Mors with her husband and two sons. You can contact her at www.amulyamalladi.com.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Amulya Malladi

Amulya’s mother, Lakshmi Malladi, helped her write Song of the Cuckoo Bird. Not just by saying all the encouraging things mothers say, but by telling her the stories that found their way into this book. Amulya feels that this book is as much her mother’s as it is hers.

Amulya Malladi: So, how did you think the book turned out? I took a lot of the stories you told me to write this book. I made them my own stories, but still . . . they started from your descriptions.

Lakshmi Malladi: You wrote the stories differently, but I felt that they were still real, still very down-to-earth, not contrived at all. I liked the book. I liked the characters very much, maybe because they seemed so real to me.

AM: A friend of mine, Jody Pryor, who always helps me with my books while they are being written, felt that the book was quite an experience for her. She thought everything was new and fresh. I think she might have even felt that parts of the book were unbelievable.

LM: No, no, I was not surprised by any of the stories of the characters. I have seen it all . . . nothing was unrealistic or unbelievable. But tell me, which character did you feel had the unhappiest life in the book? Let’s see if we agree on that.

AM: I think that would be Charvi. She got pushed into a life she never really had a chance to reject and in the end she was all alone. She lived the life that others expected her to live. She was this Guru, this god­dess and she never had a husband, a lover, children . . . she was lonely in the end.


LM: I agree that she was the saddest person in the book, but not for the same reason. I think that her life was the most painful because she was never sure if she was a goddess. She doubted herself all the time and probably lived with guilt that she was cheating all these people by taking their money. To not be sure of who you are, especially if you feel you are being dishonest . . . that is probably the hardest way to live. What do you think?

AM: I agree. I never thought about it that way, but you are right. That is a hard way to live. So, who did you think had the fullest life?

LM: That has to be Chetana. I don’t like her as a character, she is self-centered, thankless . . . I just didn’t like her. But she managed to have a full life. She got married, had children who did well, and she was the only one who did whatever she wanted. Her husband died and she wanted to have a boyfriend, so she went and got one. Her daughters took care of her in her old age. She was the luckiest of them all.

AM: I think Chetana was the happiest, and she is also my favorite character in the book. She is so spirited and she was a lot of fun to write. She is very selfish and yet, there is something redeemable about her because she is Kokila’s friend and Kokila is the best person in that entire story. She is the one with the big heart and good soul, the one who wants to help others, save others.

LM: Yes, Kokila is the person with the big heart, but her life was so tragic. You know, all the others who lived at Tella Meda were people who had lost something before they came there. Kokila came there and lost her life. She lost her parents, yes, but it was after she came to Tella Meda that she lost the chance for having a life . . . you know, to be a wife and mother.

AM: But she got to become a mother; she adopted Karthik.


LM: Yes, yes, but it isn’t the same thing. She had no man, no husband, and even the men she had been with . . . What good would even the sex have been with that old man, Ramanandam? Why did she go with him?

AM: I think she was in love with him. I think Kokila is the kind of woman who needs to be needed. She loved Ramanandam because he needed her, which is never a good basis for a relationship.

LM: And it was the same with the professor whose daughter committed suicide.

AM: Yes, Manjunath. He was also a sad man who needed someone to hold on to him, so she volunteered.

LM: Manjunath I can understand, he sounded like a good-looking man, but Ramanandam?

AM: Love is blind!

LM: What I can’t understand is why Charvi didn’t do something to stop the relationship. She seems very possessive about her father, so why didn’t she?

AM: First, I think she did try, in her way. She spoke with her father and then she also spoke to Kokila, she–

LM: She didn’t speak to Kokila about it; she just told her that she knew she was sleeping with Ramanandam.

AM: I think that was her way of trying. Charvi, I think, has a strong moral code and she feels she must not interfere in anyone’s life. She would never forcefully try to make anyone do anything. But no one else in the ashram said anything either. Subhadra actually tells Kokila that she thinks it is a good thing that she is having a relationship with
Ramanandam and Kokila is furious. She has always thought of Sub­hadra as a mother but a mother would never be happy about her daughter sleeping with a man twice her age, a man she could not marry or have children with.

LM: Still, it is a shame that no one did anything to help Kokila. She was just a child, what did she know? Do you think Ramanandam did not encourage her to go with her husband because he liked her?

AM: No, I don’t think he had designs on her from then. I hope not; that would be even more disgusting. I think he truly believed that children needed to do what they wanted to do without interference from elders.

LM: That girl needed some elders in her life, people who would have told her that staying at Tella Meda was going to ruin her life.

AM: Okay, I have a specific question. Some women writers, especially from South Asia, are accused of always portraying men in a bad light. Were all the men in my book bad?

LM: No, no, not at all. You had Shankar, who was a very good man. Narayan Garu who lives at Tella Meda, he is also a good man. But Ramanandam was not a good man, and that professor . . . Manjunath, he was somewhere in between. And you also had women who were not very nice. There are good people and bad people; it is not specific to being a man or a woman. And then there was that American man, Mark. Do you think he was interested in Charvi?

AM: No, I don’t think so. I think he was interested, even fascinated about this side of India, but he was not really interested in Charvi. He had a crush on her, but that was about it.

LM: He seems not to believe in her, so why did he come to Tella Meda?


AM: He came looking for something new, but he didn’t come back. And he respected Charvi, I think. He thought she was a smart single woman making the best of the hand she was dealt.

LM: When Mark asks her why she takes money and gifts from people, Charvi says that if they want to give something, who is she to say no. Which is really nonsense! Still, it must not have been easy for Charvi to accept that money and those gifts when she was in doubt of her godliness.

AM: But don’t you think she felt she deserved the money and the at­tention because she was making so many sacrifices by being a god­dess?

LM: I don’t like Charvi much. But then again I have to like her as well because she helped so many people by giving them a roof over their heads.

AM: I agree. Tella Meda is part ashram, part women’s shelter, part or­phanage, and part home for the elderly.

LM: But she also never helped anyone get out of there. She never en­couraged Kokila or Chetana to have better lives, to leave Tella Meda and become productive members of society. And they didn’t make much of an effort either.

AM: People get used to something and then they are afraid of making changes. Chetana and Kokila were used to living in Tella Meda and they were afraid of going out and facing the real world.

LM: It is like a goat that is tied up; it gets used to eating the grass around it and does not want to wander away from the pasture where it is tied up. Who knows what is there beyond the pasture? Here it gets food and it is safe, god only knows what the goat will find outside. I feel that is why they stay.


AM: That is a fine way of putting it.

LM: And also, they are a family at Tella Meda. They are not related by blood but there is a sister Þgure, there are sort of children, a father figure, a surrogate mother . . . all in all, with all these broken pieces, these broken people, they get together and become a family in Tella Meda. And there is security with family!

AM: Yes, there is. They fought over things and didn’t get along all the time, but all through they remain a family.

LM: What was your favorite part of the book?

AM: Several things, but my favorite chapter was the one where Tella Meda gets a television. I had to send a lot of e-mails to Daddy to Þnd out how much televisions cost in 1984, how many televisions a small company would make . . . it was a good chapter to write. I had fun writing it.

LM: I like the last pages the best. After Charvi dies, you write about how Kokila looks at the house and feels that after having tried for so many years to leave Tella Meda she and Chetana would live in apartments built over the same land. I thought it was very fitting. It was a good ending.

AM: The ending used to be different. I wrote the Prologue and Epilogue from the point of view of the house first, but my smart editor, Allison Dickens, told me that it took away from the book, and she was right. But it means a lot to me that you liked the book. So . . . do you think it’ll be a bestseller?

LM: Of course, the book is very good; I liked it very much, but . . .

AM: Did you like the book because I wrote it or would you have liked it off the rack at a bookstore?


LM: I think I would always like this book because it is so real to me. And that is why I worry, that maybe people who read it will say, "Oh that doesn’t sound real." These situations are real; I have seen things like this happen all my life, and I don’t want people to think that this is completely made up. These things happen, have happened several times, will continue to happen . . .

AM: I think with this interview we will convince them that the book is as close to reality as it can get without being nonfiction.

LM: I hope so.

AM: Thanks, Mama.

LM: I hope I asked all the right questions. If I didn’t, just change it to something better, okay?

AM: I don’t think I will need to. (And I didn’t!)

Praise

Praise

“A sprawling, gorgeous intergenerational saga, in which the spice and savor of traditional India progresses painfully into the present–the changing of women’s lives and the dimunition of the man as household god. Told through the mysterious embroidery of one family’s tapestry–its life, loves, regrets, secrets, deaths, and even what comes after death–Song of the Cuckoo Bird is mesmerizing.”
–Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and The Breakdown Lane
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Perhaps the most pivotal moment of this novel occurs at the begin­ning when Kokila decides to leave her marriage and stay at Tella Meda. Did you agree with her decision? Would you have made the same choice at her age in her situation? Would you make the same choice knowing how her life turned out?

2. Do you think Kokila was satisfied with her life and, at the end of the novel, felt she had lived a productive and worthwhile life? Do you feel she lived a productive and worthwhile life?

3. In Song of the Cuckoo Bird, the women of Tella Meda frequently dis­cuss their need for a husband and children, and the placement those things will guarantee them in society. How important is marriage and having a family to a woman’s identity today where you live? How much is it a part of your own identity?

4. Which of the women at Tella Meda did you identify with the most closely? Did you have trouble connecting to any of the women and if so, why do you think you found her difficult to understand?

5. Both in the novel and in the conversation between Amulya Malladi and her mother in this reader’s guide, there is much discussion of whether Charvi is a good person, particularly in terms of her acceptance of money. Did you feel she was a good person? What inconsistencies of character did you spot in Charvi? Can a person be both good and bad?

6. Are there any purely good or purely evil characters in Song of the Cuckoo Bird?

7. How did you feel the men in the novel were portrayed? Fairly or un­fairly? Realistically or unrealistically?

8. Did you find the news headlines at the start of each chapter helpful or were they unimportant to your understanding of the characters and setting?

9. Would Tella Meda be a good place to grow up, whether it was located in your hometown or in India, or during different time periods?

10. What do you think happened to Vidura?


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