Get to know Mridu as she learns to adapt to life in Madras and her imaginary ideal, Koruchaka.

Even the mundane and the banal can be made interesting in the hands of a good writer. This is made clear in Vasantha Surya's three books in Tamil. Originally penned in English, the series "Mridu in Madras" has been translated by Prema Srinivasan, a noted author herself. As the foreword prepares you, here is not a fast paced tale, but one that moves leisurely and has a laidback feel to it, where you will meet ordinary and normal people who will speak to you; where you can caress sea shells; can visit Mahabalipuram; can hear the coconut fronds swishing about in the breeze; can meet with girls who carry a conversation with the squirrel.

Mridu is an eight-year-old who lives with her grandparents and others in Madras while her parents live in Muscat. A delightful little girl whose best friend is the imaginary ideal, Koruchaka, a boy of her age who will come to her aid at the snap of a finger. He is portrayed as a do-gooder always and helps Mridu get over her dilemmas in a jiffy.

The Harry Potter whiff is hard to miss: You will find the prosaic lizard being invested with magical powers - what with its first letter being replaced with a 'w' and bingo, you have a wizard on hand!

Realistic accounts

The childhood pleasures of stealing raw mango slices set out to dry in the sun, relishing tender coconut, giving nicknames like Shanku and Pummy to her dolls Shankar and Poornima and feeding them imaginary dosa, playing 'statue' on the beach sands with peer group friends, going on a family picnic to Mahabalipuram are described in loving detail. Mridu is initiated into the child's joys of a wedding in the family and in the same book, we find she gets an idea of death with the passing on of a beloved grandaunt.

Toppy is the pet name given to Mridu's Grandmom and she tops in turning out delicious food. Ammani, the grandaunt, insists on the painful oil bath ritual and it is a delight to read how Mridu beats a hasty retreat. There's a scintillating account of the awful time everyone has while little Lali learns to play the violin. All these could well be from the pages of a daily journal of a real-life girl, for so realistic is the account. The characterisation of Ravi who loves to read TinTin and boss over Mridu, is done with masterly strokes and Mridu comes through as a lovable youngster with wisdom beyond her years. Koruchaka himself could have been delineated a little more, for right now he seems merely a convenient device for the writer.

The books are replete with interesting dialogue and that is one of the great strengths of the author. But at times you wish there was a little fiction employed to embellish the real-life situations. Another lack is the semblance of a plot or narrative, considering the books are all about children mostly. The black and white drawings are by Sumathi and Sonia, the daughter and granddaughter of Vasantha Surya.

MADRASIL MRIDU: YAAR INDHA KORUCHAKA?; YALI KUGAI; VEETIL ORU KALYANAM by Vasantha Surya, Translated into Tamil by Prema Srinivasan and Vasantha Surya. Kalachuvadu Pathippagam.