Jungle Nama by Amitav Ghosh

Jungle Nama by Amitav Ghosh and Illustrated by Salman Toor

Review by Shwetha H S

Title: Jungle Nama
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Imprint: Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9789353379128
Genre: Mythology, Illustrated, Children, YA, Adults

If you are into reading books, then you would have probably heard of Amitav Ghosh. He is a prominent name in the Indian literary circles and is also a recipient of Jnanpith Award. I always stayed away from mainstream books. Amitav Ghosh’s books seemed so mainstream, I never thought of reading his works. But while browsing through a bookshop in Leh, Ladakh, a book cover caught my attention. It was Amitav Ghosh’s Jungle Nama. As you must have guessed, I bought that book to enter the world of one of the greatest Indian literary celebrities.

Jungle Nama is based on one of the chapters of The Legend of Bon Bibi. It is written in the form of poetry. This is a story of morals with a link to local mythology, anchored in reality, for both kids and adults alike. Particularly this story talks about greed – how a wealthy merchant makes a pact with a regional deity or a demigod, Dokkhin Rai, who often shape-shifts into a Royal Bengal Tiger and is restricted to the areas of Sunderbans, to leave his relative as food in exchange for honey and wax, but are punished by Bon Bibi and her twin brother Shah Jongoli.

I found it good to read Jungle Nama aloud. There are quite a few Bengali/Bangla words, so it is better to read in the same accent, for fun as well as it gives a sense of relevance. There are a few moderately difficult words used in the book, which make a good addition to the readers’ English vocabulary. Most of all, the Afterword of this book is as precious as the story. The last time I was so mesmerised by someone’s writing was while reading Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. There was no need for a bookmark while reading Jungle Nama as I finished reading it in one go! I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am no longer skeptical about reading a mainstream Amitav Ghosh’s book. While the writing is great, the illustrations aren’t so. Although the last few pages of the book praise the illustrations by Salman Toor, I thought they could have helped glorify the story better, especially because this is based on mythology. Nevertheless, I definitely recommend reading Jungle Nama.

The Mind has Mountains by Elizabeth Jennings

The Mind has Mountains by Elizabeth Jennings

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Poetry

The Mind has Mountains has many poems by Elizabeth Jennings about mental illness and mental health. In A Mental Hospital Sitting-Room is about how it feels to wait there and what goes on in a patient’s mind. Diagnosis and Protest gives a glimpse of the poetess’ mind. Madness is little confusing because it leaves the reader wondering who is actually mentally ill. Reflections on A Mental Hospital tells about how a patient who is getting better feels and what it feels like for a third person to watch them. The Interrogator gives the reader an idea of what a psychiatrist does. The poetess has a thing for paintings. The stanzas of poems are abruptly broken and started anew. In Van Gogh, the poetess muses over the perks of being mad. The Jump shows how people with mental illness die. Attempted Suicide tells about how mentally ill people feel after their failed suicide attempts. Lisa is truly enlightening. Questions gives a glimpse into what goes on inside the head of a mentally ill person. Night Sister is about what hardships do to us. The Illusion talks about horrors of how and why people cope with fear. Hysteria is about hysteria in a mental hospital. There are many more poems in this collection and all are about mental health. Read this book only if you really like poems of all kinds.

Poet Robot: An Introduction to E I Wong by E I Wong

Poet Robot: An Introduction to E I Wong by E I Wong

Review by Shwetha H S

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Not even a few pages into this and I was like this is good! Poet Robot is set in three segments: A Narcissist Writes Letters to Himself, The Second Person and Tin Lion.

A Narcissist Writes Letters to Himself is less of poems and more of ranting to himself. In this segment, Woodsman, A Shrill Shriek Follows Me and Inner Peace will definitely make you laugh. Blackbeard, Seeking Insurance, Uncovers the Pirate Paradox will seem to be vague until you reach the end of it where you will understand the whole poem, or not. The language in this segment of the book might be offensive to many people, but let’s just assume that it is not for everybody.

The Second Person has one long poem called Episode 1: Hello, Apprentice. Well, it is more of a short story than a poem. The author/poet has tried to make it reek of sarcasm, but it isn’t.

Tin Lion is actually funny and has enough sarcasm to make it funny. Orthodox Christians, please stay away from this segment. It is for your own good. At the end of this segment as well as the book, the author mentions in the footnote “When reviewing this book, please make sure you mention that these are the literal views and opinions of every single godforsaken San Franciscan and anyone affiliated with said San Franciscan. I speak for them now.” This is very much questionable.

This book is good for one-time read.

Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry by Khushwant Singh and Kamna Prasad

Review by Ashutosh Singh

It was not long ago that I stumbled upon an interview of Munnar Rana (one of the living legends of Urdu poetry). The most fascinating thing he stated was that ‘Urdu’ is purely a language originated in India. Also, the Urdu dictionary contains just 110 odd words of its own, the other 70% words are from Hindi and other languages. These facts kindled an urge to read more of it. The books currently present for starters are not much, most of the poetry books present right now are written in either Arabic or Devanagari scripts with no explanations to the poetry. “Celebrating the Best of Urdu Poetry” crosses these barriers and is perfect for anyone who needs an introduction to Urdu poetry. It was published in 2007. The poetry and ghazals are selected by Khushwant Singh and Kamna Prasad. Khushwant Singh was and still is one of the best Indian writer and columnist, recipient of Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan awards. The poems are printed in Hindi (Devanagari) as well as in English phonetics; the same is then artistically translated and explained in English by Mr. Singh. Most of the translations are ingenious and ends up being poems in themselves with soothing rhymes. The book covers the excerpts of the masterpieces of the Urdu poetry and ghazals from 17th to the 20th century. It starts with an introduction from Mr. Singh, which talks about the rise, decline and beauty of Urdu language. The book is compartmentalized chronologically, with a brief history of the poet and then his verses. Few lines from the introduction part “Maangey Allah se bas itni dua hai Rashid main jo Urdu mein vaseeyat likhoon beta parh ley (All Rashid asks of Allah is just one small gift; if i write my will in Urdu, may my son be able to read it.)” The book is a bottle of wine, not to be gulped at once but to be savoured sip by sip. Somewhere you will definitely find verses with which one can closely relate to. Books like such may create few more followers of the intricate but amazingly soothing language, which is on the verge of its demise.