Hungry Stones and Other Stories
by Rabindranath Tagore;
Rupa and Company. Pages 277. Rs 50.
The mention of
Rabindranath Tagore conjures up a vision of the man who gave us
the National Anthem and whose poetic genius had earned him the
Noble Prize for Literature. But the sweep of Tagoreís
accomplishments spreads far beyond writing poetry. Apart from
being a poet, Tagore was a short story writer, a novelist, a
dramatist, and a composer of music. He wrote more than a hundred
stories woven around love, social relationships, manís
communion with nature and also the supernatural. The present
collection of 13 stories represents some extraordinary moments
in the lives of ordinary people. Hungry Stones takes you
on a supernatural trip to a bygone world of unrequited passions,
unsatisfied longings and the heard-aches of blasted hope. Cabuliwala
presents a highly lovable character in a class of people which
is generally misunderstood. His longing for his little child
back home in distant Afghanistan makes poignant reading.
also includes a satire on our social order (The Kingdom of
Cards) and also provides a peep into the mind of a child (Once
There Was a King, and the Homecoming). Some of these works
have been rendered into English by the author himself, helped by
eminent persons like C. F. Andrews, the Rev. E. J. Thompson,
Panna Lal Basu, Prabhat Kumar Mukerjee and Sister Nivedita.
Rerun at Rialto
by Tom Alter; Viking,
Penguin Books, India, New Delhi; Pages 128; Rs 195.
When a TV
serial or film maker needs someone to play the role of a
European character, the first person he looks for is Tom Alter.
Mussoorie born and FTII trained Alter, when he is not before the
arclights, spends his time in Mussoorie reading and writing. Rerun
at Rialto is a suspense story, a mystery which at the end
seems easy to solve.
Allan Kohli, a
well-known police officer of Delhi, returns to his hometown,
Mussoorie, for a holiday after 30 years and finds waiting for
him the mysterious of a wealthy woman from a cinema house. The
story moves with the usual twists and turns and the final act
comes without much surprise. But before taking you to the end,
Tom Alter takes you on a conducted tour of Mussoorie town in the
company of his policeman hero who seems out to rediscover his
hometown, meeting old friends and reliving his childhood. The
bazaars, the pathways, the tea shops, book stores, schools,
playgrounds, hospitals, cinema houses, all float in the pages in
such detail that you start wondering whether you are reading a
whodunit or a biography. The interest at this point does seem to
by Mani Dixit; Rupa and
Company, New Delhi; Pages 108, Rs 80.
A fable from
the Himalayan kingdom, Friends Colony follows the ancient
pattern of Panchtantra and Hitopadesh to give wisdom to humans
through animal characters that are given human attributes. Mani
Dixit, a Nepal-born doctor who teaches medical students, adjusts
his fable to suit modern needs and problems.
Animals in the
land of Lapen (Nepal in reverse) get together to solve the
problem of increasing population and pressure on their habitat.
From this conclave of the denizens of the jungle, emerges a
system of rotational rule by different species. In a seven-year
cycle, the elephant, the hare, the monkey, the bear, the stag,
the rhinoceros and the tiger are assigned to rule the jungle for
one year each.
As the rule of
different species progresses, problems of living close to humans
are faced and discussed. You have the animals discussing issues
such as preaching, protecting endangered species, preserving the
green cover, as well as human problems such as brain drain, and
emigration. You also find animals setting up committees and
commissions to avoid immediate problems.
At the end of the seven-year
cycle, the animals succeed in setting up an eco-friendly regime,
in cooperation with the humans. Perhaps a lesson for us humans
to learn to live in harmony with all creatures of nature.