Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Keeping Corner

Keeping Corner
by Kashmira Sheth

About the book:
Pretty as a peacock, twelve-year-old Leela has always been the pet of her family. She’s never cared much for school and barely takes notice of the growing unrest between the British colonists and her own countrymen. Why should she? Her future has been planned since her engagement at two and marriage at nine. And now, as she prepares to move in with her husband’s family, she’s too busy collecting bangles and ribbons to care about much else. But when Leela’s husband dies, her life changes forever. Instead of being showered with gifts and affection, she is forced to shave her head and give away her beloved saris and bangles. Leela will have to be confined to her house for a year—keep corner—in preparation for a life of mourning for a boy she barely knew. When her schoolteacher hears of her fate, she offers to give Leela lessons at home. For the first time, Leela begins to open her eyes to the changing world around her. She learns about a new leader of the people, a man named Gandhi, who has started a political movement and practices satyagraha—nonviolent protest—against the colonists and the caste system. The quiet strength of satyagraha may liberate her country. Could it be that she can use the same path to liberate herself? In this novel based on the story of her great aunt, Kashmira Sheth paints a heartfelt and evocative portrait of a child widow in Gandhi-era India.

About the guide:
This guide includes discussion questions intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of the book which include hope, sacrifice, non-violence, family obligation, education and social change.
Discussion Guide:
  1. When the novel opens, Leela is most concerned about what things in her life? What is important to her?  What are her plans for her future? Who decided them?
  2. Describe the family living arrangements in Leela’s home. What would be great about living with an extended family? What would be difficult? Which members are Leela closest to? Why? Who would you most like to live with in your extended family?

  3. Who is Ramanlal? What kind of relationship does Leela have with him as the novel opens? What glimpse does the reader get of her future life as his bride? Do you think they would be happy together? How is that future destroyed?
  4. What are the customs surrounding death in Leela’s Brahmen community? Which ones are particularly difficult for her to surrender to? Which ones would be most difficult for you?
  5. What exactly is keeping corner? Why must Leela uphold the traditions of her family and community? What consequences will they face if she does not?  Does her brother agree with these commands or not? Why?
  6. What is Leela’s only opportunity for her future? Who takes her on a journey though she cannot leave her house? At first Leela is not much interested in study how does this change over the course of the novel? How does Saviben make the year bearable for Leela?
  7. Leela begins following the new ideas of Gandhiji (known as Gandhi in the western world) as he leads his people into a series of protests through nonviolence. How does Gandhi and other writers make Leela begin questioning her fate?
  8. At what price did Leela’s family keep the satyagrah? Did she believe it was worth the sacrifice? How could there be “a victory in the defeat?”  How does Leela’s family compare in wealth and circumstance to most of their countrymen?
  9. Why is Leela suddenly jealous of Lakha’s new wife, Shani? How does Leela treat her at first?  The growth and blossoming of their friendship shows what changes in Leela? What does Leela learn from Shani that makes her suffering particularly hard to bear?  Shani brings out the best in Leela. Which friends do that for you?
  10. Discuss Leela’s relationship with her brother, Kanubhai. How does he work on her behalf? What sacrifices does he make for her?  Why do her parents feel powerless to act on her behalf?

Language Arts:
Write at least five journal entries as if you are Leela as you read the novel. Don’t just summarize events either make it sound like she is writing the journal herself.

Character chart:
Fill in the graphic organizer about the many changes you see in Leela over the course of the novel.



Study the satyagrah movement that was led by Ghandi. Create a timeline about what you learned and illustrate it with your own pictures or those from sources.

Research the caste system in India. In a journal response, describe not just what you learned but also your response to it’s limitations for individuals.