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Mariam Karim-Ahlawat

By B. Vinayan
Tulika Publishers, Chennai, 2011, pp. 243, 250.00


There was every reason to linger on her swift passage from tree to bush to rock through the forest. A universe of dark green light and darker shade shimmered all around her. The world seemed to constantly explode and re-form in ever-changing colours and liquid forms. Everything demanded redefining, renaming - and when that had been done, to be redefined and renamed again and again. Trees exploded upwards and outwards like smoky green and brown geysers, a gigantic curtain of flower-decked creepers streamed from a great height like a misty, yellow waterfall. A small leaf could be an entire green and churning ocean and a flower near it a red and forever expanding and contracting cloud of fire. Once, Grace found herself perched within a large bunch of leaves sprinkled with flowers and sunlight. What her extremely tiny vision saw was a palace of jewelled splendour. Its ceiling was enormous, depthless, a white iridescent diamond of sunlight that shot green, blue and white rays down upon her. Around and below her stretched, rose and opened large jade green halls, chambers, cool passages and balconies whose curving, leafy walls formed such shapes and angles as to defy human design, their walls veined, it seemed, with the most precious filigree of silver, gold and red. And all of it undulated like water touched by a breeze. Where the sun didn’t strike there were shadows like deep, bluish-black smoke, forming secret pools and mist-like fountains where, it seemed, an even more secret life lingered. And Grace was part of it all, merging easily with the flow, weave and delicate balance of this magnificent universe. As you may judge from the above passage, the book, Beyond the Blue River by B. Vinayan, is a visual treat (without any illustrations). Remarkable for its imaginative qualities this is a Quest Tale in the tradition of so many other books for children and adults. It is the story of an autoricksha called Grace who plies the streets of Sadram with her owner Guru. Yes, there is a tradition of talking vehicles, from Ships I Have Met published nearly a hundred years ago to Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the self-driven Chitty Chitty Bang Bang… but this is a first for a particularly Indian light vehicle! The difference, however, is that Grace is no ordinary talking vehicle or magical auto, she is a vehicle with a ...

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