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Sandhya Rao

By Joydeb Chitrakar and Gita Wolf
Tara Books, Chennai, 2012, pp. 32, Rs. 800.00

By Arefa Tehsin
Fingerprint, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 304, Rs. 195.00


These are two very different kinds of books, targeting completely different readers. The Enduring Ark is a typical Tara offering, a picture book for all ages; Iora & the Quest of Five is a fantasy tale for 9 pluses, who read, of course.   As the title suggests, the picture book tells the story of Noah’s ark: it’s an ‘Indian version of the Biblical tale of the great flood’ the slip cover claims, illustrated in the Bengal patua style of scroll painting. Only, in this case, the paintings are pasted side by side and folded, accordion-style, into a book. It’s neat and you see the connection the publishers are trying to make by innovating on the design—but it does make you wonder why. Especially as there’s really nothing Indian about this version of the story—unless, of course, what is meant is only the illustrations.   Indeed, the text is rather prosaic, even prescriptive. Clearly, this is a book with a moral: God was unhappy with the way the world was going, so he decided to send down a punishing flood, but not before identifying Noah and his wife Na’mah as the couple that would carry a pair of all animals with them in an ark they would build, and that would survive the swirling waters. Everybody knows this story. It’s the same one.   The ‘twist’, if we can call it that, comes by way of the pictures which have a certain simple appeal, even though we’re seeing more and more like it these days as folk artists and styles have started getting recognition and a leg-up over the last few years. The colours are bright, the details are enchanting and the printing is good.   Still, I cannot help but wonder if using a style like this (or any other folk style, for that matter) to convey details of specific stories does not, in some way, constrain the artist. It is just a thought and I’m probably wrong but when I look at even a single folk-style painting, I see so many stories emanating from it, so having to ‘illustrate’ points in a story seems to be cramping. But that’s just my feeling.   At Rs 800, the book’s certainly steeply priced, but if you like to collect ‘novelty’ items, here’s one to add to your shelf.   Iora & the Quest of Five is a ...

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