Only recently I stepped into a book stall in Mumbai located inside a mall that had a coffee counter in it. What a novel idea. No? Because coffee and books make a brilliant combination. And while waggling around the bookstore I was able to lay my hands on one of Amitav Ghosh’s recent books “Jungle Nama … a story of the sundarban.” This attractive-looking book caught my attention. It is illuminated by Salman Toor a New York-based artist of Pakistani origin. About Amitav Ghosh, we all know he is the winner of the Jnanpith Award, the highest literary award in India. The subject book was first published in India in 2021 by the Fourth Estate an imprint of Harper-Collins. The title falls under the genre of fiction. It is a hardcover comprising 82 pages. Overall a short book having a slim spine.
Although, the title ‘Jungle Nama’ is Amitav Ghosh’s verse adaptation (ie. writing arranged with a metrical rhythm, typically having a rhyme) of an episode from the legend of Bon Bibi, which happens to be a popular folk tale in the villages of the Sundarbans located in West Bengal. It also lies at the heart of another novel penned by the same author titled ‘The Hungry Tide.’
Friends ‘Jungle Nama … a story of the Sundarbans is a very cute book. One of the cutest that I’ve ever read. The best part of the book is that it can be read and enjoyed equally by children, adults and even the old. It is inspiring, informational, sensitive and evocative.
It is the story of an avaricious rich merchant Dhona, a poor lad Dukhey, and his old frail mother. It is also the story of Dokkhin Rai, a mighty spirit who appears before human beings as a tiger in the jungles of Sundarbans. It is also about Bon Bibi, the benign goddess of the forest, and her warrior brother Shah Jongoli.
As the legend goes, in one spring season Dhona who is a greedy person is seized by an aching desire. He wants to go on a voyage to collect riches such as—Honey, wax and timber from the mangroves. So he tells his younger brother I have an idea about something that we should try. Let’s go on a daring venture, we will make a great fortune, our biggest ever. It is springtime now and the mangroves are filled with hives. So let’s try to collect the richest hoard of our lives. Instead of taking one ship let us take seven.
But his younger brother Mona advises him not to do so because he feels that they have enough for a decent and peaceful life. But Dhona insists that he will go. Mona refuses to go with him this time but promises to help him arrange a fleet of seven vessels to carry the fortune. While the vessels are arranged Mona is short of one lascar. Dhona reminds Mona about Dukhey who is the son of their poor cousin who is no more. Dukhey is desperate and will take any job says Dhona.
As the legend unfolds Dhona who is a greedy person lures Dukhey into a sea voyage. He tells Dukhey he has outfitted a fleet of seven vessels for the tideland jungle to acquire riches and in the process, Dukhey will go around the world. He has six lascars and is shy of one where Dukhey fits in. He promises the old and hapless mother of Dukhey who is his poor cousin’s wife that upon returning from the voyage he will load Dukhey with riches and even get him married. But the old mother of Dukhey knows Dhona only makes tall and false promises and never honours them. She, therefore, tells her son Dukhey that just in case Dhona your chacha puts you in a dangerous spot in the jungle pray to the jungle queen Bon Bibi who will come to your rescue. And the same thing happens when Dhona and Dokkhin Rai connive to kill Dukhey he is rescued by the benign goddess of the forest Bon Bibi and her warrior brother Shah Jongoli. Not only that, Bon Bibi organises to send him back in a living boat … a crocodile with loads of riches.
I will desist from detailing and exposing this lyrical book any further as it is relatively new and will leave it for the readers to discover it themselves. The original print version of this legend, dating back to the nineteenth century is composed in Bengali verse meter known as dwipodi-poyar. Jungle Nama is a free adaptation of the legend, told entirely in a poyar-like meter of twenty-four syllable couplets that replicate the cadence of the original.
The first-ever book in verse by Amitav Ghosh, Jungle Nama evokes the wonder of the Sundarban through its poetry. The book is accompanied by the stunning artwork of renowned artist Salman Toor. It is an illuminated edition of a fabulous folk tale that every book lover would want to possess.
Since the narration is in verses the author has used limited and appropriate words to express the glorious folk tale. Verse to verse is pleasant sounding, rhyming and meaningful. He has tried his best to tone down his vocabulary but in verses and poetries the vocabulary is not always in the author’s hands because of the rhyme factor. One, therefore, comes across uncommon words which are easy to comprehend on practically every page.
A sentence that describes the mangrove of Sundarban that I like is, ‘the mangroves are home to predators of every kind, some you’ll never see, but they will enter your mind.’
It is a light book almost like a fairy tale. The best part about the book is its description of the topography of Sundarbans and the telling of the folktale simultaneously which forms a brilliant imagery.
I would give the book an A grade. A must-read.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Our posts are meant for our readers that includes both children and adults and it has a huge variety in terms of content. We also accept donations for our mission. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:
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GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE
(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 8 prestigious libraries of the US that includes Harvard College Library; Harvard University Library; Library of Congress; University of Washington, Seattle; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Yale University, New Haven; University of Chicago; University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill University Libraries. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in libraries and archives of Canada, Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai; Jaipuria Institute of Management, Noida; India. Shoolini University, Yogananda Knowledge Center, Himachal Pradesh and Azim Premzi University, Bangalore).
ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY
(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi; Available for reading in Indian National Bibliography, March 2016, in the literature section, in Central Reference Library, Ministry of Culture, India, Belvedere, Kolkata-700022)
AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES
(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be the undying characteristics of Lucknow. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014. It is included for reading in Askews and Holts Library Services, Lancashire, U.K; Herrick District Library, Holland and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, USA; Black Gold Cooperative Library Administration, Arroyo Grande, California).
REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD
(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)
TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN
(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
RHYTHM … in poems
(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)
(Published in February 2020. The book is a collection of eight short stories available in Amazon, Flipkart and Notion Press)
Short stories, Book reviews and Articles published in Bhavan’s Journal: 1.Reality and Perception, 15.10.19; 2.Sending the Wrong Message, 31.5.20; 3. Eagle versus Scholars June, 15 & 20 2020; 4. Indica, 15.8.20; 5. The Story of King Chitraketu, August 31 2020; 6. Breaking Through the Chakravyuh, September 30 2020. 7. The Questioning Spouse, October 31, 2020; 8. Happy Days, November 15, 2020; 9. The Karma Cycle of Paddy and Wheat, December 15, 2020; 10. Power Vs Influence, January 31, 2021; 11. Three Refugees, March 15, 2021; 12. Rise and Fall of Ajatashatru, March 31, 2021; 13. Reformed Ruler, May 15, 2021; 14. A Lasting Name, May 31, 2021; 15. Are Animals Better Teachers?, June 16, 2021; 16. Book Review: The Gram Swaraj, 1.7.21; 17. Right Age for Achievements, 15.7.21; 18. Big Things Have Small Beginnings, 15.8.21; 19. Where is Gangaridai?, 15.9.21; 20. Confront the Donkey Within You 30.9.21; 21. Know Your Strengths 15.10.21; 22. Poverty 15.11.21; 23. Top View 30.11.21; 24. The Bansuriwala 15.1.22; 25. Sale of Alaska 15.2.22; 26. The Dimasa Kingdom 28.2.22; 27. Buried Treasure 15.4.22; 28. The Kingdom of Pragjyotisha 30.4.22; 29. Who is more useful? 15.5.22; 30. The White Swan from Lake Mansarovar 30.6.22; 31. Bhool Bhulayya 15.9.22
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