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PANKAJA SRINIVASAN

Holidays are the best time to catch up on your reading. Here are some Indian authors who have some interesting stories to tell…

Lovely, long vacation for you to do whatever your heart desires. And, of course, to read all those books. Someone asked me if I could think of great storybooks for children written by Indians, and that set me thinking. I asked friends, publishers, bookstore owners and other kids your age for a list of Indian books in English they felt were absolute ‘must reads’, and I got a curious mix of responses. Some said there were no Indian writers or books for children worth their weight (I am happy to say they are wrong). But some others came up with loads of suggestions. So, here goes…

Ranjit Lal. His wonderful, wonderful stories on birds are a ‘must read’. From his stories, absolutely delightful, you learn astonishing facts about birds. In his Birds From My Window each chapter begins with a hilarious limerick. When Banshee Kissed Bimbo and other stories, is about friendships, feuds and family intrigues among the birds of Goa. How cool is that!

Different takes

If you enjoy nature stories, then Ruskin Bond it is. He lives in Mussoorie, so naturally he has a lot to say about trees, mountains and animals and birds. I recollect a story, a particularly nice one, called An Island of Trees, where a father and son plant an island of trees and the man speaks of a time when trees roamed the earth freely, till a curse rooted them to a spot for ever. Speaking of trees, but this time in verse, Bond writes of a granny who decides at age 62 to live on a tree and never come down! Bond writes ghost stories too.

On the top of my best books’ list would be R.K Narayan’s

Swami and Friends. I must have read it, oh 328 times, and I plan to read it at least another thousand times more. Please do read it, oh please. It opens with Swami feigning a stomach ache, on a Monday morning before school. Need I say more?

If you like detectives, then Feluda is your sleuth. Film director Satyajit Ray made him up. He wrote 35 Feluda stories and turned two of them into fantastic films — Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) and Joi Baba Felunath (The mystery of the elephant God). Ray wrote the stories in Bengali and they have been translated into English. His son has made some more films on these stories.

Satyajit Ray’s dad, Sukumar Ray, also wrote rollicking Nonsense Verse. If you know Bengali then yippee! You are in for some ‘rolling-on-the-floor-with-laughter’ with his Abol Tabol. That also has been translated into English and is called Abol Tabol The Nonsense world of Sukumar Ray.

Apropos verse, read aloud Vikram Seth’s

Beastly Tales from Here and There. If you want to revisit the stories your tatha pati told you, then it’s all there in the Amar Chitra Katha series. Hundreds of stories from the epics, the Panchatantra, from history, etc. If you enjoy music, then sing along with the Karadi Tales audio visual series. Singing along with Dhondu the donkey, or Karadi the bear can be great fun. May be you could get together with friends and have a play reading session with music. Oh yes, I believe another ‘must read is a compilation of the best of Chandamama in the last 60 years.

Check out these books/websites

Ranjit Lal – The caterpillar who went on a diet, The Crow Chronicles

Samhita Arni – Mahabharata, A Child’s View

Anoushka Ravi Shankar – The Rumour

Rachna Gilmore – Gita Trilogy, A friend like Zilla

Timeri Murari – Children of the Enchanted Jungle

Narinder Dhami – Bend it like Beckham

Bhajju Shyam, Ram Singh Urveti – The Night Life of the Trees

A few websites where you may find your kind of books :

http://www.tulikabooks.com

http://www.tarabooks.com

http://www.karaditales.com/

From the blogs…

image

I met him (Ranjit Lal) at his Civil Lines home a few months ago — it was a short, to-the-point visit and there wasn’t much scope for an in-depth conversation. He’s a small man, a little hesitant in his speech at first, but as we got talking he opened up. Soon he was sifting through the many books in his room, pulling out a tattered copy of one of his favourites, Usha Ganguli’s A Guide to the Birds of the Delhi Region, a comprehensive nature study that is sadly out of print today.

image

The charm of Ray’s Feluda stories lie, among other things, in their skilful mix of mystery and humour. Another reason for Feluda’s enduring popularity is that he looks like your next-door neighbour who travels to places like the hills, sea-sides, bucolic Bengal countryside, and even to London to solve mysteries. The settings are a great attraction.

image

Quite obviously, as Seth himself says, his decision to write this Jungle book fable was an impulsive one, prompted by a hot, sleepy day. He says, “I decided to write a summer story involving mangoes and a river. By the time I had finished writing The Crocodile And the Monkey, another story and other animals had begun stirring in my mind. And so it went on until all ten of these beastly tales were born.”

© Copyright 2000 – 2009 The Hindu

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