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T.C.A. Avni

By R. Amarendran
Year 2015, pp. 28, Rs. 150.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

This is the story of a knife sharpener who takes a daily round of a few vil-lages near his home, sharpening garden shears, coconut scrapers, meat cleavers and anything else which may need his services. Lack of work makes him decide one day to cross the forest, especially since Eid is around the corner and he wants to be able to afford new clothes and sweets for his family for the occasion. The twist to the story is how he ends up helping animals keep their teeth and claws sharp, and how they then repay Salim with meat and fruit enough for his and his family’s needs. The story is a whimsical flight of fantasy, with the protagonist representing a dying profession. Living in cities, especially in the increasingly consumer culture that makes it easier to replace something rather than repair it, means that many of us no longer need or even know about certain professions: people with magic-like expertise in sharpening knives, repairing kitchen utensils, fixing or tightening charpais and furniture, re-fluffing cotton mattresses and quilts, among others. The book is a glimpse into the past, when the knife sharpener would make his rounds, calling out to announce his presence. People would come out with their implements, and kids would follow him to gawk at the process as sparks flew. The book is delightfully written, with onomatopoeia being used to great effect to convey the sounds associated with Salim’s work. Much like Tom and Jerry cartoons, the storyline is fanciful—with talking animals who queue up to use Salim’s services, and in return, bring him food. I liked the idea conveyed gently that rather than taking his services for gratis, easy enough for a powerful being to do, the lion immediately repaid him, and later, so did all the other animals. I do think it is a good idea for parents, as they read to the small child, to point out a disclaimer that animals do not talk to humans and allow them to come close. The young child will never encounter a tiger or a fox in the wild, but he or she will see any number of stray dogs, cats, or even monkeys. The child must know that those animals would not tolerate the company or proximity of unfamiliar humans, so that he/she does not try to ‘sharpen its claws’! The illustrations are ...

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