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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Book Review : 'Gangamma's Gharial' by Shalini Srinivasan



Shalini Srinivasan’s ‘Gangamma’s Gharial’ is quite the delight, but only quite. When you first open a page, you find yourself in another world, well… not exactly, but let’s say it’s a world of animals, trees, yakshas, magic and humans, of course.

It starts off with the world of yakshas and their adventures. Twelve of them, who manage to take off from their inward existence, and are living among us.  Initially, when they were out, one of them, Jayant comes upon a girl, and he quickly signals her to keep quiet. She is at a lake where blue lotuses are in abundance.

The girl, who nods in understanding, goes off to sleep in a while, as she sees the yakshas, disappearing. When she awakes, she is suddenly realises that the world is chnaged. It does not exist anymore, shaken as it is by a landslide. Not understanding, she begins walking. She walks to find her village, a mess. Then, she is meant to give her name register herself. But, she chooses to walk and walk away.

Almost 1,000 years later, at Giripuram, a temple town lives an old lady. She looks after blue lotuses and becomes the proud owner of a talking gharial or a fish eating crocodile. She is one among few gardeners in the village. A rich man comes to town and gives her a precious earring, in exchange for the flowers.

The earring, which was in the shape of a ghariyal could talk too! The ghariyal is all set to travel and it tells Gangamma of all the new places, they could travel to. Gangamma is intrigued and agrees, in spite of never having travelled beyond her village. So, Gangamma travels (teleports or whatever it was called, at that time) to a beautiful place, up north where she encounters a young girl, a choute, a bird and an apple tree. The old lady takes a liking for the apple tree.

Shalini Srinivasan
Gangamma decides to leave the place with the tree and she travels again, this time with everyone in tow. She did not want them and neither did the 12 year old girl, who is the guardian of the tree. The events turn and soon, everyone finds themselves in Giripuram. Faster events occur and we soon find the girl, who refuses to tell her name, becomes Ondu to all and sundry.

The yakshas are still trying to find the 12 of their missing bunch. And Gangamma and Ondu, together with the gharial are left together to rear the garden of blue lotuses.

With adventures, the whos and whys get answered. There is also he temple in Giripuram, whose priests have a few ideas and the strange looking idols too. All these people, yakshas, bird, and other animals have one thing in common. They all have a vague adventure to tell.

As we approach an end, there are times when I got very confused. I guess, all the characters were a little too many to handle. Also, need to mention that teleporting is the way to travel. You can get to so many places in minutes! It adds to the confusion, though! :(

Overall, a decent story, especially at the beginning, when you are introduced to the characters. Once you get the idea of teleporting and the yakshas, it lost its touch of magic and really went over my head. I felt the overall coming together of the novel did not happen too well. Brilliant illustrations, though.

You can Buy the Book, right here.

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