Beastly Tales From Here and There by Vikram Seth


With a long, hot summer looming ahead there is nothing much we can do but crib about the heat and sweat it out. But in the case of Vikram Seth, when it gets too hot, he decides to pen a summer story. That’s neat, don’t you think?

In the Introduction to his book Beastly Tales From Here and There, he says he began by writing the well-known story of the crocodile and the monkey in verse. That was the beginning. Having written one, it was like a tap had been opened and before he knew it he had penned ten rhymes. The book has two stories each from India, China, Greece and Ukraine and two, rather brilliant ones from “Land of Gup” as Seth himself says.

Nuggets of truth

The animal fables are set in verse and the humour in every line keeps you smiling as you read. Crocodiles and monkeys, the cock and the rabbit, elephants and tragopans…all come alive with Seth’s magical touch. The protagonists are animals and the fables familiar, but the strange twists and turns that his poems take keep you in suspense till the very end. The story of the hare and the tortoise has been heard and heard again, however, with Seth’s skilful strokes it achieves new and totally unexpected heights.

The speciality of Seth’s poems is that you read it once and you enjoy a good laugh. You read it again and then you understand it at a different level. Once again, and you unravel yet another layer. Every reading is a discovery as you get familiar with his flair and delight in words. The spontaneity and exuberance hide the tiny seeds of advice he plants in your mind.

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