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Happiness is a Book Called Indrani

Amena Jayal

By Tara Ali Baig . Illustrated by Manjula Padmanabhan
Thomson Press, 1979, pp. 64, Rs. 24.50

VOLUME IV NUMBER 2 September/October 1979

What is sadly lacking in most Indian story books for children is a light touch with language, originality, and a lively sense of the ridiculous. Most children abundantly possess the last two qualities, but I doubt if they find much in this genre to satisfy them. Literature designed for their pleasure and relaxation is so often ponderous, unimaginative and downright dull that I sometimes wonder if those who write for them have ever been touched by the fantasy of a child's make-believe world, where only life's realities seem unconvincing. This is happily not the case with Indrani—Tara Ali Baig's delightfully whimsical book for children—soon to be published by Thomson Press. The strong vein of comfortably high-principl­ed, down-to earth good sense which runs right through the book, lends credibility to some of the zaniest, most endearing gleefully improbable characters that any child could wish for, with names that are in keeping with their owner's particular brand of happy lunacy. The central character—Princess lndrani—is an agreeably normal child with whom most children will find it easy to identify which, of course, will make her adventures all the more enjoyable. The theme Mrs. Baig has chosen for her story is as unusual as her hero—a crafty but lovable clown of a crow called Boka with a propensity for standing on his head and assuming it is the rest of the world that is upside down! It is he who instigates Indrani's escape from a distasteful but inevitable marriage to the vain, bald, fat, effete rich Wobbly Rana of Pobbly. He plays the Sitar with his toes and employs sixty-one sycophantic parrots to praise his hands in sixty-two languages as they rest rubbed with scented oil on 'cushions of velvet and Kamkhab.' Indrani's father, his Majesty Turn Tum of Bonk, King of The Seven Rivers is given a twenty gun salute during celebrations. They make his teeth rattle until he discovers to his de­light that when banged with a tea-pot the large empty heads of his two dwarfs Nag and Bhag emit a lovely, loud, boom­ing noise, 'so he changes his gun salute to twenty bongs instead'—ten bangs to each dwarf's head. Prince Wobbly covets these dwarfs as he feels that hourly bongs would· make his sixty-one parrots more regular in their praise of his hands, but the only way he can get them ...

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