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Updated: June 10, 2013 16:50 IST
BOOK WORM

Telling tales

NIMI KURIAN
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Stories and poems that have been chosen with great care to give you a glimpse of different facets of life in India.

This is a veritable treasure trove of stories all in one book. You cannot get luckier. Spinning Yarns has stories and poems and every one of them will keep you engrossed till the end.

The anthology begins with a story by Satyajit Ray. A film maker par excellence, when he tells a story he paints a vivid scene, and “The Vicious Vampire” does not disappoint. Told in first person, you actually experience every scene that unfolds. The little bat that insists on hanging in the room, the strange man dressed in a black coat and grey trousers, the evening stillness around the graveyard…all conjure up visions of something beyond reality.

“A Parrot’s Tale” by Rabindranath Tagore is a sad fable that is so true to our times. “He sang, but did not know the shastras. He hopped about and flew, but didn’t know good manners.” The king wants this problem attended too. Soon enough there are ministers, pundits, relatives, goldsmiths…almost everyone, who are involved in this task and take home cartloads of gifts from the king. Does the bird learn to sing right?

There are some poems too: Mister Owl and Missus: Pumpkin Grumpkin by Sukumar Ray and The Goat and the Ram by Vikram Seth.

Premchand’s “Big Brother” is at once funny and moving. An elder brother’s concern and love for his younger sibling and the younger one’s sense of mischief and respect for his elder brother is clearly portrayed. However, the ending brings it all to a joyful close when you realise that despite the responsibility the elder boy feels it is experiencing the joys of childhood that binds them together. A kite has cut loose and trailing its string with a bunch of boys following it trying to bag it… “Big B was standing tall; he jumped and caught hold of the string and began to run madly towards the hostel. I ran after him.”

School and more

No anthology can be complete without a story by Ruskin Bond. In “Here Comes Mr Oliver” we are transported to a boarding school and introduced to Mr. Oliver. The boys are naughty but they sure do have a heart. Mr Oliver is devastated at the loss of his pet dog the boys have named Hitler. How the boys help him overcome his grief is a touching, yet funny story.

“The Library” by Paul Zacharia is an interestingly told story of a little girl who loves to read. “The School” by Ranjit Lal is sure to send shivers up your spine. Are you passionate about collecting stamps? “The Stamp Album” is a story about two boys who collect stamps. The hurt and loss that follows because passions run high is inevitable. In India festival time is welcomed by all people regardless of caste and religion. It is a time for celebration and sometimes a time for reconciliation too as we see in Paro Anand’s “Eid”. A bar of soap excites no emotion from any of us. However, imagine a village boy being awarded a prize of a lovely perfumed soap. “Pinty’s Soap” by Sanjay Khati describes every emotion, every thrill the boy feels with his prize. Sudha Murthy’s “How I taught my grandmother to read” is inspiring. It is so much fun to shake a tree after the rain. But it can also land you in some trouble like Shankar’s “Rain-making”. In this day and age when tiger conservation is high on the list, Jim Corbett’s “The Thak Man-eater” would seem a bit redundant. However, it is about choices that one has to make. Can a life be saved?

Finally we have Khushwant Singh with “The Portrait of a Lady”. It is an ode to his grandmother — a wonderful, beautiful woman. Singh’s writing is simple and descriptive making us fall in love with his grandmother.

Deepa Agarwal has had the unenviable task of choosing the authors that make up this wonderful collection. She has chosen with care ensuring that there is a little of everything in the book. Many of the stories are translated from the original and these translated stories make a difference. The great variety of characters that crop in the stories are fascinating.

From mischief, to adventure to the supernatural…you have it all here between the covers of Spinning Yarns.

SPINNING YARNS, Rs. 250, Rupa

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