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THE TRICKSTER BIRD


T.C.A. Avni

THE TRICKSTER BIRD
By Rinchin
Year 2016, pp. 28, Rs.30.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 11 November 2016

Poverty is often a concept many of us find ourselves uncomfortable discussing. We get discomfited by them and react with varying combinations of indifference, irritation or pity, and seek to forget them as soon as possible. We distance ourselves by imagining the poor as some sort of separate being—either idealizing them or villainizing them, but inevitably making caricatures who do not resemble ‘people’ we can identify with. Rinchin and Manjari Chakravarti’s The Trickster Bird is a beautiful and very important story which narrows the chasm between ‘us’ an ‘them’ and presents a small cross-section of the life of a little rag picker girl who lives in the city and ekes out a living with her family. The story introduces convalescent Renchu, a little girl who could not help her mother and sisters as she usually does as she was running a fever. Restless, she cajoles a story out of her grandmother, who tells a story of her grandfather in the time when they were respected members of a village who made their living of the bounty of the forest where they used to live. The tale the grandmother tells is about an anthropomorphic bird who, once captured by the grandfather, tricks him into releasing her. The story weaves together different aspects of the lives Renchu and her family by moving through two worlds—the one in the story the grandmother relates of days past and the current life the family is leading. The book touches upon many profound details—the life of Renchu’s grandmother while they still lived in the village and were respected members of the community, the long hours they work in the city to be able to make ends meet, the stress and grind of the world the poor inhabit, and the grime and greyness of their lives in the city posing a sharp contrast to the lush green forests from where they came. The book also hints at other points which affect the lives of this family such as how the wildlife preservation movements affect the lives of the people dependent on the forest for their living, how people consider them as thieves, the casual harassment they face at the hands of the police and local authorities.The pictures too add beautifully to the story—the lush and vibrant colours of the forest which provide a sharp contrast to the dull shades of ...


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