Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet
by Kashmira Sheth
About the book:
Jeeta’s family is caught up in the whirlwind of arranging marriages for her two older sisters, but the drama and excitement leave Jeeta cold. She knows that tradition demands the parade of suitors, the marriage negotiations, the elaborate displays the expensive wedding parties- but where is the love and romance that the movies promise? When Jeeta falls for Neel, the cousin of her new friend Sarina, Jeeta realizes she must strike a balance between independence and duty, and follow her own path.
About the guide:
This guide includes discussion questions and projects appropriate for book clubs, literature circles, and classroom discussions. It is intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of this novel, which include friendship, family expectations, education, beauty, mother/daughter relationships, traditions, and self-identity.
1. What did you learn about contemporary Indian culture that you didn’t know before reading this novel? What things reminded you of your own family? What details were different?
2. Describe Mummy’s process for finding a suitable husband for her daughters. How is it different than when Mummy was young? Sarina is not opposed to this formal process if she doesn’t fall in love herself. Would you be open to meeting a potential spouse that your parents introduced you to? Why or why not?
3. Why does Mummy say that it will be difficult to find a suitable match for Jeeta? What qualities does she find undesirable in her daughter? How difficult would this be to hear from your mom? Do you think her mother is cruel or only trying to show her how to change?
4. Describe Sarina and her parents. How does Jeeta’s friendship change her outlook on her future? What does she learn from Sarina and her family?
5. In the beginning of the novel Jeeta sees Neel at the pool but worries about even smiling at him in public. By the end of the book her actions are much bolder. What are they? How has she gained the courage to change so much? Would you be brave enough to buck family expectations and cultural traditions? What makes you think so? Are there any ways you do this within your own family? How?
6. What is the outcome of Mohini’s marriage? What does she do? Why was she afraid to come home? Do you think these events helped change Mummy’s plans for Jeeta? Why?
7. What are the traditional roles for sons and daughters in India? How are those roles changing?
8. Jeeta isn’t considered a true beauty by her mother and other family members. Why? Are there any qualities that all cultures agree makes someone beautiful? What are they? Why do we find physical beauty so important?
9. Find your favorite description in the book and share a few of the sentences with the group. Why did you choose this selection? What did you learn by reading it? What is the most fascinating fact that you learned?
10. Predict what you think the future holds for Jeeta. Will she pursue a career in law? Will she choose Neel as her future husband? How will she treat her own daughter if she has any?
Pretend that Jeeta could not call Mohini in America. Write the letter that she would send her sister instead.
Plan a trip to India! Find out how much airfare, lodging and food would be to visit Mumbai and other interesting sites you’d like to see in Jeeta’s country. Be sure you plan enough money for souvenirs. Create an itinerary and brochure about your trip which has detailed information about excursions, tours and prices.
Visit the Contemporary Indian Art Museum online and peruse through at least three different artist’s works. Then, create your own piece of art inspired by what you saw.