Sunday, 30 May 2010
Friday, 28 May 2010
Thursday, 13 May 2010
Ever since I began following Tulika and its works the one thought that kept propping itself up constantly was why did we as children not have access to such a variety of books to enjoy. I do admit that there were a few candidates that did a neat job of entertaining us at the time, but the variety was limited. Moreover, what ever we did read was very orthodox and subject to conformity. And it was the very absence of these two facets that impressed me most about Devdutt Pattanaik’s Hanuman’s Ramayan.
Out of the box- that’s what I thought of the narrative. That is because the book is a part of Tulika’s “Our Myth” series which claims to draw upon timeless stories from popular and marginal sources to gently question stereotypes and rigid notions. The series aims to carry forward the spirit of oral story telling and show how myths change and still endure, as the excerpt at the back of the book will tell you. A brilliant initiative, I say.
The story, the illustration – the entire presentation was not what I am used to seeing in a traditional children’s book. And that’s what sold Hanuman’s Ramayan to me, almost. I will explain the ambiguity in the previous statement a little later in the entry. What I would also like to add is that this review is purely from the point of an adult who has no access to perspective of the kids.
For starters I would like to mention the great work designer and illustrator Nancy Raj has executed with Hanuman’s Ramayan. The Madhubani art illustrations on the cover and within the book are quirky, interesting and colourful with the art work complimenting the text wonderfully. Kudos to the publishers for getting the entire package just right. Not too gray with text and the right amount of colour on the pages.
Now for the story. Unlike the impression that the title gives, the book is not about Hanuman’s version of the Ramayana. That concept serves only as a catalyst. The story is about what ensues when Valamiki is apprised of the fact that there lies another Ramayana that is superior to his newly finished epic.
The following pages follow Valmiki’s journey to puruse the work of a story teller who is in fact a mere character in his own literary genius. Once in Hanuman’s lair, Valmiki chances upon the monkey king’s narrative written the foliage of his natural habitat. As he reads the Ramayana, the ancient sage’s curiosity and jealousy are quickly doused as he sheds tears of pure joy. But there is another reason why he cries, as he admits to Hanuman. But I will not spoil the climax for you as therein lies the ultimate message of the story.
The narrative was interesting, humorous, colourful and easy to follow. The drama in the words and setting will keep the reader turning pages eagerly. I can imagine the young tykes pausing every once in a while to ask questions; the answers to which lie in the next page by the way.
I loved the fact that story went beyond the basics of right and wrong, good triumphing over evil, which was the wont of books I remember reading as a child. While those have their own place even in this time and age, the current book under review introduces to the young audiences to the value of doing something honourable without seeking a reward. And of course introduce them to the fact that there is not just one version of the beloved Ramayana or in my opinion of any narrative.
There is a complexity in the message that forces the reader to think. It chooses not to be pedantic, and talks of a higher meaning. As an adult, I can appreciate the message but would a young audience be able do so, I was not so sure. However, having read the sstoryteller's review here, I guess that point is moot. The one hiccup that the book had was the sign off. Personally I would have liked the story to end at the point where hanuman makes his explanation. The final commentary was not necessary and oversimplifies what would have been a perfect book.
This small anomaly apart, the book is one Tulika should be proud to have in its collection, as should the young readers and their parents.
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
For those who cared to notice, the blog was lying fallow for the past few days. The reason being that the homeland beckoned, the call which I heeded and once there, came the summons from God’s own country (which, upon reaching, I came to conclusion had been leased out to the devil this summer). However, as exaggeration is my wont, please ignore the rant. Because I did have a good time, in terms of catching up, sleeping, driving (which I got to do after a year of being driven around in public transport) around the merry country side and no access to the world (gone) wild web.
True to the nature of an addict I was shattered when I first was apprised of the fact that lightening had struck (literally) and the connection had gone poof… for two days I paced around like a wounded cheetah and on the third, realising it was futile to crib, I relaxed- literally and figuratively. Having done that, for the first time I realised how much of my life was stuck in the virtual world.
In the days of disconnect I reconnected else where. Got down to calling friends, meeting up with relatives, catching up on local news, enjoyed conversations face to face, ran around the courtyard with young cousins, sang songs driving down to the beach, a few of us gathered enough courage to go calf deep in the Arabian sea, jotted down recipes, spoilt the little niece rotten, got together with family and prayed; spent time introspecting sans distractions or disturbance of any kind. In all, I survived and how.
With no more job applications to access or Facebook rivals to envy, I sat down and counted my blessings. That of being a part of home and hearth where I was loved and cherished, of lives lived off the virtual world, where realities are so different from most of ours, of the complexity of this difference and the simplicity of acceptance that led to a sense of peace. Of understanding your role in the game higher powers play and appreciating someone’s ability to smile even when times are tough and most importantly to understand that one is lucky to have all that one has, and in the balance of things, your life is filled with positives.
Now those who think I have taken up sanyas and am bidding the world adieu; if only you were so lucky. All I am saying is that I finally understood the meaning of taking a break and loved every second of it. I am sure there many among you who know what I mean, but those who were stuck in the Ethernet like me, go ahead, let go… I promise the break would be worth it!