Book Review by Namrata

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Title: Animalia Indica –The Finest Animal Stories in Indian Literature

 Editor: Sumana Roy

Publisher: Aleph Book Company (2019)

Edited by Sumana Roy, Animalia Indica is a first of its kind collection of animal stories in Indian literature. From classic story tellers like R.K.Narayan, Premchand, Rudyard Kipling to the most recent maestros like Kanishk Tharoor, Perumal Murugan, and Nilanjana Roy, this collection features them all.

Sumana Roy is a Siliguri based author whose previous works include a non-fiction title (How I became a tree), a fiction novel (Missing) and a poetry collection (Out of Syllabus). She went on to win the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Tata Literature Live! First Book Award in 2017 for her debut book How I became a tree.

This anthology, with its beautiful cover, has twenty-one stories about humans and animals. It can easily be called a collector’s edition with the who’s who of Indian literature featured within. Not all of the collection is made of short stories. There are some poems; excerpts; two are novellas and one is an entire novel in its own. The selection is classic! It includes stories translated from regional languages and from Indian writing in English, with interesting end-notes about the narrative, authors and translators.  The magic of the stories makes something written in 1981 an equally intriguing read as one written recently. What makes the book even more eye catching and unique, are the sketches by Rohan Dahotre before each story (he has also done the stunning cover). Depicting the animal/s featured in each story, these black and white sketches set the tone for every tale that follows.

Book Review by Richa Mohan

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Title: Lone Fox Dancing, My Autobiography

Author: Ruskin Bond

Publisher and date of publication: Speaking Tiger, 2017

Ruskin Bond is an award-winning author. He won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize in 1957, for his very first novel, The Room on the Roof. Since then he has been honoured with various awards including the Sahitya Akademi Award for English writing in India in 1993, the Padma Shri in 1999, and the Delhi government’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He was conferred with the Padma Bhushan in 2014. In fact, his autobiography, Lone Fox Dancing, won the 2017 Atta Galatta-Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize.

So how do you review the work of a master? Actually, you don’t. You simply flow with the magic of the master weaver of tales and feel lucky that you had a chance to, once again, experience the power of beautiful storytelling.

It is said greatness is born of suffering, and the story in the book is testament of that. You are transported to a simpler time and life, such that you actually end up yearning for them — for the days when pen and paper, and tales in the night, were an everyday reality.

by Deepika Srivastava

bondRuskin Bond is an author whose career spans five decades, whose stories have captivated children and adults alike. Marked by lucidity and perceptual clarity, his stories celebrate the travels and travails of the common man; the protagonist is the common man. A Gathering of Friends and Upon an Old Wall Dreaming (both by Aleph, India, 2016) contain a set of carefully chosen stories that sum up the different phases of his entire career. For a first-time reader, it’s the best introduction to the highly acclaimed author, and for a seasoned one, it’s the best recipe for nostalgia.

Geographically displaced, the Anglo-Indian author found refuge in the Garhwal hills of Uttrakhand. These hills form the setting in most of his stories. The familiarity of the other settings used — like the railway station, Delhi, the villages — engage the reader on an emotional level, allowing him to establish a deeper relationship with the prose; the familiarity of the setting creates a familiarity of experience. This is one of the prime reasons as to why his stories hold up so well today. They deal with broken hearts, being alone, living in penury, about strangers who turn out be angels, the flowers which blossom — experiences that almost everyone goes through in their lifetime — encouraging the reader to relish the joy in these little things, because happiness can be found in them too.

A Gathering of Friends opens with “Rusty Plays Holi” from his first book, The Room on the Roof. While most fiction thrives on plot, here it is the character who leaves an imprint. In “The Blue Umbrella”, one instantly falls for the girl Binya when she leaves the umbrella for the greedy shopkeeper without his knowledge. In “The Night Train at Deoli”, one’s heart is filled with sympathy for the author, and while reading “The Woman on Platform 8”, one wishes to go back in time and meet such an angelic stranger, Sushila the girl of his dreams, who reminds us of our lost love.

Bond who was in conversation with Ravi Singh, Founder, Speaking Tiger, an independant publishing house spoke about how he borrowed from his own life for many of his earliest books: IE

ruskin_bondWith an easy poise, schoolboy hair, a gentle demeanour, a smiling bespectacled face and a familiar wit in place, prolific author Ruskin Bond charmed audiences at the Jaipur Literature Festival with anecdotes from his past and the shaping of his literary career.

A big crowd, including a large number of schoolchildren, who thronged the grounds of Diggi Palace, the venue of JLF, heard in rapt silence as Bond spoke about how he borrowed from his own life for many of his earliest books.