AN EN­CHANT­ING VOY­AGE

Marwar - - Book Review - Text Bev­erly Pereira

Kabi­randtheSil­verSpoon by de­but au­thor Vinita Sri­mal Garg is set in a fic­ti­tious Ra­jasthani town and mag­i­cal lands where noth­ing is what it seems. Brim­ming with lib­eral doses of fan­tasy, ad­ven­ture and life lessons, the story will stay in the minds of young read­ers long af­ter the book is closed.

Many clas­sic chil­dren’s books rely on ad­ven­ture to draw young read­ers; oth­ers pro­pel kids into a world of fan­tasy that en­thrall the young mind. Vinita Sri­mal Garg’s de­but book ti­tled Kabir and the Sil­ver Spoon is a bril­liant com­bi­na­tion of both, mak­ing it an en­gross­ing hol­i­day read for mid­dle grade read­ers. The pro­tag­o­nist of the story, eight-year-old Kabir, goes trav­el­ling to Ra­jasthan with his mother and dog Hin­goliya. Lit­tle does he know that this seem­ingly or­di­nary hol­i­day will turn out to be any­thing but reg­u­lar. From a time trav­el­ling jour­ney through an en­chanted land where float­ing lo­tuses, fan­tas­ti­cal crea­tures and a sing­ing river are com­mon­place, right up to a dan­ger­ous quest in a dark un­der­world, the book has all the in­gre­di­ents to push the lim­its of a child’s imag­i­na­tion. Seated in his an­ces­tral haveli in his mother’s na­tive town of Jamwana, Kabir is pre­sented with a sil­ver spoon by a gen­tle guard named Thakkarji. Kabir soon re­alises that the spoon is no or­di­nary piece of cut­lery and that it has the power to com­mu­ni­cate solely with him. As if this wasn’t strange enough, both the guard and the spoon ad­dress him as ‘Mas­ter’. When they find them­selves slip­ping down an un­used step­well, Kabir and his dog en­ter the mag­i­cal king­dom of Jamwant—a town that ex­ists in a par­al­lel uni­verse al­to­gether. His friends in this new land are La­tooriya, a young boy with a chipped tooth who Kabir has seen be­fore in his dreams, and a lit­tle girl named Nimki. Kabir learns that in a pre­vi­ous life he was the prince of this town and that his re­turn was highly an­tic­i­pated. The group sets off on a se­ries of unimag­in­ably epic quests that be­gin with meet­ing the three wise men, but not be­fore they come face-to-face with a ter­ri­fy­ing five-headed ser­pent that trans­forms into a be­nign fly­ing sea horse.

They are to soon inch one step closer to ac­com­plish­ing their mis­sion—to bring back the wish-grant­ing tree Tathastu, Jamwant’s na­tional trea­sure that was stolen by the wicked and com­mand­ing king Maya of the land of Tataal Lok. The story moves at a pace gen­tle enough for the reader to con­jure up vi­su­als dur­ing the read­ing process. Ev­ery chap­ter is vividly imag­ined, us­ing care­fully cho­sen prose. Sup­ple­ment­ing each chap­ter are beau­ti­ful wa­ter­colour il­lus­tra­tions by artist I N Sriv­idya that play­fully de­pict var­i­ous stages of Kabir’s jour­ney. Each char­ac­ter is fleshed out to a tee, from the lov­able La­tooriya and the car­ing Nimki, to the ma­tronly cook Kalpa and the group’s help­ful friend Kanha, both of whom re­side in the nether­world of Tataal Lok. The book re­spects the in­tel­li­gence of chil­dren, en­cour­ag­ing them to dive right into the com­plex na­ture of the story with its twists and turns. The au­thor seam­lessly in­ter­weaves In­dian mythol­ogy into the rich prose, and yet the plot’s ref­er­ences to characters and places cited in the Ma­hab­harata are sub­tle enough to not over­shadow the uni­verses that the au­thor has dreamed up. She does, how­ever, bor­row from her child­hood hol­i­days to Ra­jasthan, which is why we see so many iconic el­e­ments of the colour­ful state come alive in var­i­ous in­stances across the story. Only the first 18 pages of the book are set in the real, but fic­ti­tious, town of Jamwana. Yet, we are in­evitably drawn to the or­nate na­ture of the haveli through Garg’s de­scrip­tive de­tail­ing of tra­di­tional Ra­jasthani mo­tifs and in­tri­cate Meenakari paint­ings. A glos­sary at the end of the book of­fers more in­sight into In­dian cul­ture through trans­la­tions of com­monly used Mar­wari and Hindi words. The ca­ma­raderie shared be­tween Kabir and his friends is a tale of friendship at its best. The group of young kids looks out for each other through thick and thin. Even the an­tag­o­nist of the story—the evil king Maya—turns out to be a com­pas­sion­ate per­son, who even­tu­ally aids the young friends in their bold quest. Pep­pered with lessons in val­ues, ethics and good man­ners, the story leaves an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion on the young mind. At a time when tech­nol­ogy is fast re­plac­ing the sim­ple plea­sures of child­hood, read­ing books—in the fan­tasy genre or oth­er­wise—is the need of the hour. Sri­mal Garg’s sim­ple, in­ven­tive and richly imag­ined book comes at an apt time—per­haps as a gen­tle re­minder of the im­por­tance of mo­ti­vat­ing chil­dren to im­merse them­selves in new worlds, which, in turn, will in­evitably feed their imag­i­na­tion.

The book re­spects the in­tel­li­gence of chil­dren, en­cour­ag­ing them to dive right into the com­plex na­ture of the story with its twists and turns

Top: Book cover of ‘Kabir and the Sil­ver Spoon’; Be­low: Au­thor Vinita Sri­mal Garg

Clock­wise from top left: Launch of ‘Kabir and the Sil­ver Spoon’ at Satur­day Club, Kolkata by (l-r) Mir, Vinita Sri­mal Garg, Sudeshna Roy, Maneka Sor­car; Vinita Sri­mal Garg pro­mot­ing her book at the Ra­dio Mirchi stu­dios, Jaipur; Vinita Sri­mal Garg in­ter­act­ing with stu­dents dur­ing a read­ing ses­sion at the Aditya Birla World Academy in Mum­bai

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