We hope 1C1S will inspire readers to participate with us again this year!
Discussion groups are scheduled at the following locations of the Boston Public Library:
Parker Hill: September 19th, 6:30pm
Faneuil: September 24th, 8pm
Roslindale, at the Roslindale House Senior Center: September 18th, 11am
1. “Karma” starts by comparing Shankar and Prakash. What does the story suggest that each of them values, and what does the story suggest are the more important things to value?
2. Tradition is important to the Balareddys, but there are times within the story that breaking from tradition is shown to be a way to grow—where in the story is tradition treated as important, and where do you see it shown as too restricting?
3. Shankar is fired from his job at the convenience store for being rude to a customer, even though the customer accused him of something he did not do. Does the story suggest he should have acted differently? Do you think he should have deferred to the customer? What would you do in his situation? Or, if you have experienced a similar dilemma, what did you do and how did it turn out?
4. We find out that one of the reasons Prakash asks Shankar to leave is because Prakash works with the man who cost Shankar his job at the convenience store. Does the story suggest that Prakash acted incorrectly, or does his past behavior and sacrifice excuse his choice?
5. “Tower kills” happen when birds become disoriented and lost in the city, and most of them that crash are ignored by the people of the city. Do you see any parallels between these birds and any of the people in the story? What do these connections imply?
6. Homelessness is a problem throughout the world, and it can be especially visible in big cities like Boston. Think about the scene between the homeless man and the business woman, and the scenes between Shankar and the “sober veteran”—are these familiar to you? What would you have done in Shankar’s place? How do you approach this issue in your life?
7. Is the ending of the story hopeful or frustrating? Based on how the story characterizes Shankar, does it seem likely he will grow, in his own time, or that he is not able to see himself as someone who can make a difference.
8. Think about the title, “Karma.” What do you know about the idea of “karma”? What does this suggest for how we should view the actions of the two brothers throughout the story? What does this suggest for their future?
9. We learn that, in his childhood, Shankar killed a lovebird at his brother’s urging—Is Shankar’s work with the animals in the hospital meant to be a penance for this action, or does it indicate something else? Does the story show Prakash, who urged his brother to kill the bird, receiving any kind of punishment?
10. Shankar often compares himself to his wife, Neha, and he does his best to ensure that he is putting as much effort forward as she is. In what ways is Shankar right in his comparison, and in what ways does he miss things that we as readers can see?
11. Have you been to any of the places in Boston described in the story, like Angell Memorial Hospital, or the Small Business Administration? Was your experience similar to Shankar’s? If not, how did it differ?
12. Shankar dreams of being a chef, but is worried that it will be too difficult and that those things are “for dreamers.” Is there something you have always dreamed of doing? How have you approached your dreams?
Write a short story (500-700 words) in which someone is forced to break from a tradition.
Learn more about “tower kills” from Towerkill.com and the New Jersey Audubon Society
The problem of Homelessness in Boston
Cultural background, including the Colonial History of India, Family Traditions, and a broad overview of Indian culture