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Maithreyi Krishnaraj

By Sampurna Chatterji
Puffin Books, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 162, Rs. 195.00

By Poile Sengupta
Puffin Books, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 144, Rs. 175.00

By Sampurna Chatterji
Scholastic India, 2008, Rs. 195.00


English is not our native tongue and the way we write it or speak it tends to be prosy and unlike how the native speaker in England would have spoken it. The stories for children published in English language by England born English speakers resonate better both in content and language with the children’s own ways of speaking. Enid Blyton for example enthralled child readers all over the world and now we have JK Rowling. I do not mean to dismiss our efforts to write in English but we miss the tone and idiom suitable for children who do not speak English at home. The language and content tend to be ‘adult’. I found this a major shortcoming especially in the two books by Sampurna Chatterji. It is not clear to what age group they are addressed.   Mulla Nasruddin shows much imagination. A boy’s doodle takes the form of a turban, which then becomes a ‘mulla’ The boy says to him ‘mullas were serious scary guys’. I found this objectionable—it echoes how Muslim clerics are portrayed though this particular Mulla is an amusing guy. The story takes after Alice in Wonderland in many statements. For example:   ‘make words mean what you want them to mean’ (as the Queen of hearts said?) ‘Money does strange things to people’ ‘Thinking gets you no where’ ‘Trying to see things like they really are’     In some places the humour is forced  such as the following: dates in history are different from edible dates. A character wants to know how one knows one is dead. He was told one’s hands and feet get cold. In winter when his hands and feet got freezing cold, he thought he was dead. There are uses of expressions which may be beyond  child’s knowledge  for example:  meditating on the one ness of all beings; dervish, sufi, Don Quixote, sarcastic comments, labyrinth, impressive words useful in diplomatic matters, pub, delegation to global village, robo jetting and aazaan. Or take these words: nefarious, Neanderthal, moronic-seems like imitation of Thomson and Thomson in TIN TIN?).   The second book by the same author on Panchatantra  has stories fitting one into another each story provokes another, certainly a wonderful device like the matrika Russian dolls. But after a time one gets tired of this.   The third book by Poile Sengupta is the best of the lot. It reflects the ...

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