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Vijetha Rangabhashyam

Text by Parismita Singh
Tulika Publishers, Chennai, 2015, pp. 76, Rs. 250.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 11 November 2015

It’s nice to know that India has finally woken up to the concept of original graphic novels—imagine what a story does to a kid’s mind when it is packaged along with whimsical sketches in vivid colours? In Mara And The Clay Cows author and illustrator Parismita Singh takes the reader to an unusual, magical territory of North Eastern India where an orphaned boy called Mara lives. On the one hand he is lonely and is disregarded by the village folk in the pretext of being a ‘bad omen’ and on the other, he has strange powers which his innocent soul is unaware of. Perched on a big rock, under a bright blue sky, he begins to mould himself a couple of cows from a piece of clay. After a short slumber, he wakes up to realize that the clay cows indeed have lives—the cows greet Mara cheerfully and introduce themselves as Rocky and Areiwon. The clay cows become Mara’s confidants and he sets out on a soul searching expedition, along with the cows, to find the true meaning of his powers. He willfully plans an encounter with Shiroi, a young girl who is an apprentice to the Chief Magician. She is besotted by Mara’s talking cows and promises to take him to the magician if he would only craft her a talking cat in return. And so they begin their elusive journey in the clouds to meet the powerful magician. The series of pressurizing situations Mara is put in before he could meet the magician and how he ultimately realizes what his powers mean form the rest of the story. Unlike the monochromatic sketches in her previous works, Singh has experimented with pencil colouring in this one—the beautiful strokes literally create a world of magic within the mind. The blue hills and the green pastures come alive, the Van Gogh inspired sketching of the clouds is lilting. The book is definitely a single-sitting read, albeit the flow from one page to another at some places is vague, making you wonder if you are missing out on some text in between. Though the story is heavily driven by the illustration, it doesn’t take away the importance of the dialogues, the writing is equally charming. For children though, the open-to-interpretation, untheatrical ending may be unsatisfactory. I don’t mean to underrate the intelligence of ...

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