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Shyamal Roy

By George Kotturan
Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, 1976, 115, 12.50

VOLUME I NUMBER 2 April - June 1976

Like the proverbial Prometheus, Sikkim, having happily unbound itself from a despotic past, now adds to the diversity-a distinct hallmark of our culture. Yet, reading these tales from Sikkim, one often has a feeling of familiarity. It stems from common experi­ences of the past—like colonial servitude, oceans of poverty and little islands of affluence, fleecing princes and the nobler ones, dogmatic religions and the reformist ones like Buddhism and so on. This book succeeds, meagrely though, in recollect­ing tales with that magnetic pull which make the young throng round the fireplace on' a chill winter night; all eyes gazing at the old grandfather to begin. Or when the monsoon rains force everyone indoors, imagination finds an outlet. And then the past becomes a living, familiar present as long as the story-teller casts his magic spell. Included here are 30 such folk-tales told for many generations in Sikkim. Nature in its spicy variety—the hills and heights, torrential streams and meandering rivers, green-valleys and misty-clouds, flowers and butterflies become the perennial source of these tales. Also much of the local colour and candour, spirit and superstitions of hill life, mythology and heroes, humour and history do appear in these tales to make them more dynamic. This infinite variety is interesting. Lord Rom, the Lepcha creator makes the first man and woman and commands them to be brother and sister. Intimacy grows into love and love into marriage. To atone for the sin of forbidden passion, the father throws into the jungle his first seven children but the rest live to become ancestors of the Lepchas! In another tale, The Mayel Valley beckons the young to thrilling adventure beyond the peak of Kanchenjunga where, Lepchas believe, their ancestors still inhabit. Tista and Rungeet is a tale with a moral: females are often wiser and more cool-headed than males among gods as much as among mortals. Another tale, The Sweet Potatoes tells the bitter truth of poverty which a young boy and his sister fight to overcome but fail in their bid. The sister gets a living burial when the walls of a pit caves in, while the brother dies of shock. The Tower of Dharmdin shows humour typical of the Lepchas. The illustrations, could have been much bolder, surely uncrowded by superfluous details. Occasional lapses of the proof reader mar an otherwise decent printing and presentability. A major handicap of ...

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