Tales of Love and Adventure

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REVIEW

Tales of Love and Adventure

By : Zai Whitaker  /  2017

Tales of Love and Adventure

Tales of Love and Adventure.jpg
Tales of Love and Adventure
Author:
Devika Rangachari
Illustrator:
Srivi Kalyan,
Vandana Singh
134 pages
English
Rs 250.00
ISBN: 978-93-86106-53-7
Scholastic, 
2016
Tags : 
Anthology,
Contemporary,
Fiction,
Overall Rating : 
6
Story/Content : 
4
Illustration : 
3
Language : 
3
Design : 
3

Historian and multi-award-winning writer Devika Rangachari is an important children’s author, especially as a re-teller of our myths and legends. This collection has ten such stories, from a range of sources including (of course) the Mahabharata, the Tamil epic Silappathikaram, the Prithviraj Raso, and just plain old history. Every time I hold such a book, there is a strong and abiding sense of what lucky bugs we are, to have this huge treasure trove of story, our very own and almost limitless Pandora’s box for writers, painters, artisans, grandmothers and everyone else to enjoy, use, and be enriched by. And one always enjoys them, because each of the multiple retellings throws up some interesting facet of specific characters, or the human situation, or oneself.

This time, for me, the first quick reading of these stories – many of them familiar old friends – had me thinking constantly about what women went through in the “old days”, and wondering whether a whole lot has changed. But this was my particular and personal journey, so I’ll only say that I’ll stick to present times thank you, though it might be fun to have a Taj Mahal built for me, or elope with handsome Prithviraj, or be showered with presents by Chandragupta. But then you also had to accept additional wives, as did Maru and Kamala, and other such small inconveniences which would be beyond me. (But then there’s also bold Jayapida, who offers the handsome stranger her extra chamber. Yeah!)

But my goodness, how these stories do transport one into that world straddling history and fantasy! A delight for the inner eye, imagination, and a feast for serious day-dreamers like yours truly. There are betel carriers and court messengers and bards, royal gardeners and lamp-lighters, Buddhist mendicants and garlanded canopies, resplendent silks and the odd sorceress, magnificent kingdoms and manifold riches. A ready-made lesson in building and using one’s imagination, such an important exercise in today’s world where children replace the imagination with the screen, which does it all for you. To read aloud to children, grandchildren, students from a book like this is to provide them rich resources for wonder, introspection, dialogue, comparison, and all that other good stuff which comprises education.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: language need not become archaic when narrating legends and myths. Arshia Sattar’s translations of the Mahabharata and Ramayana bear witness to this statement; they carry the tone of myth and legend and religion, but without being unnecessarily opaque and heavy. Perhaps Devika Rangachari should consider this possibility because her collection could have been even better without laboured expressions such as teeth being ground in chagrin, obstacles that arise to thwart destiny, plans being foiled and vows coming to fruition. In the next collection, let’s have less of suzerainty and lustrous smiles being hailed by all and sundry. Some sentences have escaped the editor’s eye: “The young prince had displayed his prowess in situations of brawn and brain time and time again.” Or, “The baby, meanwhile, stared back at them contentedly, her beautiful black eyes roving from one to the other as if she would drink them all into those twin luminous pools.”

Nevertheless, this is an important addition to our story collection of Indian legend and history. Each story ends with a short note on its source and context, and other interesting information such as festivals connected with the characters and incidents in the story.

Zai Whitaker writes for children and her books include Kali and the Rat Snake, Kanna Panna, Andamans Boy, and Cobra in My Kitchen. After teaching at the Kodai International School for eighteen years, she has returned to work at the Madras Crocodile Bank, which she helped establish in 1976.

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