Review by Shwetha H S
Title: Jungle Nama
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Imprint: Fourth Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
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.