Writing for children is no easy task. One has to look at the world through the eyes of a child, smile at the world through a child’s lips, and clap at things with juvenile glee, which Ramendra Kumar very well knows how to do.
by Santosh Bakaya
I remember, we, as kids had been brought up reading the staple literary fodder provided by translated Western classics. I still recall the classic story, The Lion and the Mouse, from Aesop’s Fables where the lion magnanimously spares a mouse it is about to kill. Then there were those bewitching fairy tales by Brothers Grimm. Many of the stories had fired my imagination as a kid, especially Hansel and Gretel, where two abandoned kids come across a witch in the jungle who lures them with delicious food, but actually wants to gobble them up. Yes, The Elves and the Shoemaker was also one of my favourite stories. The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen about a little bird that is teased by other birds had really touched my little heart.
All these were stories from an alien background, but in A Ghost called Fachak and Other Stories, we have our indigenous animals, our very own jungles, trees, and names like Chiku, Jaamun, Amiya and Khayal Naani, which children find highly appealing.
It is indeed a delightful collection of ten stories for the young and those young at heart by Ramendra Kumar who likes to call himself ‘a writer by passion, a storyteller by obsession, a mentor by aspiration, a communicator by profession, and a dancer by inspiration’.
Translated into thirty languages, his works have been included in many textbooks. Invited to many international literary festivals – Greece, Sharjah, Denmark etc. – and also to the Jaipur Literature Festival, he has published books across genres.
Not only is this book inspiring, but the writer’s life story is inspiring too. This book was compiled by him after he was diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. Gifted with self- derogatory humour, pungent satire, and incisive wit, Ramendra Kumar, an award-winning writer, is a wordsmith with many bestsellers to his credit.
The ten stories in the book, The Dream Fairy, Happy Friendship Day, Google Express, Selfie in the jungle, A Ghost called Fachak, Google the Cloud, Tug of War, who is Smarter?, The Jungle Icons, The Wakataka Tree are very innovatively written, embellished with dollops of humour, and make the reader fall in love with a dream-weaving witch, a smiling cloud, a mischievous monkey, and a tug of war that turns into a tug of love. All the stories have a certain mesmerizing quality and the reader wants to keep going back to them.
I loved Lampat, the mischievous monkey, always playing pranks on someone or the other in the jungle in Happy Friendship Day. He had the audacity to lob a coconut into the mouth of Poncho, the Donkey, who was practicing singing. Being a part of a very popular rock band, Junglees, he tied the tails of a rhino and hippo and cackled from the tree- top at their utter discomfiture. But the guy is naughty, not wicked, so he is forgiven.
‘As Lampat jumped down with a shout of glee, Slowmo and Ramba came forward with a friendship Band. In the background, the ‘Paws’, the jungle rock band struck up a tune and sang a Friendship song’. [P 6]
A donkey called Seedha, who lived in Pitara Jungle, Kolo, the cuckoo, Lofty the giraffe, Rogo, the rhino, characters in Google Train are all so endearing that you feel you have known them all along.
In Selfie in the Jungle, we come across a lion called Gizmo, who is crazy about the latest gadgets, loves to click selfies with his wife Gazebo and his twins Geez and Goz, with a new smartphone. There is a best selfie contest in the jungle and what follows is good enough to bring a smile to the grumpiest of faces.
This small, sleek book, published by Ukiyoto Publishers is bound to make the reader smile even when the clouds are rumbling ominously outside.
There are certain things that young readers are always on the lookout for: thrill, suspense, action, and characters that tickle their funny bone and of course, fluidity in language; verbosity is something that they will definitely crinkle their noses at. Why should every story have a moral? Why can’t stories be read for their entertainment value alone? All of us have been kids, and speaking from a kid’s point of view, I can say that kids want to become a part of the book they are reading, be it a forest, a garden, or a spooky house. They love to be surprised.
Ramen’s stories very effectively tap into their sense of fun, trigger their curiosity, and they drift into sleep, snuggling next to happy dreams where they can hear ‘the thumping of tails, the beating of hooves, and flapping of wings.’
Let me reiterate that his books with eclectic themes have indeed enriched children’s literature and given the kids a reason to smile and, believe me, the adult with a child hiding inside has also immensely enjoyed his books. I loved every story in this book, as Ramendra does not sermonize, but in his fluid language, drops subtle hints of the significance of harmony, peace, forgiveness, compassion, and friendship.
The first story in this collection, The Dream Fairy, is one of the stories I loved the most.
The story of a woman who was not merely old, she was ancient. She was a witch and a good one at that. We leave her sitting in a cave, spinning a wheel, with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eyes.
The reader smiles too, eyes twinkling.
Looking forward to more heartwarming stories from Ramendra Kumar. And, yes, when J K Rowling can write a series of bestselling fantasy novels for youngsters, I feel Ramendra Kumar can do too.
With his dexterity with the pen, his fertile imagination, and an eye that has the power to peer deep into the psyche of a child, he can indeed do wonders. The kids resonate with his characters and also their dialogues. Distinctively Indian flavoured and indigenous, these stories unspool in a milieu which our children are well conversant with.
Imparting basic moral values through stories is good, but I staunchly believe that such lessons should not be thrust down children’s gullet. I have yet to come across a child who is enamoured of sermonizing and impressed by ethical didacticism.
Writing for children is no easy task. One has to look at the world through the eyes of a child, smile at the world through a child’s lips, and clap at things with juvenile glee, which Ramendra very well knows how to do.
The stories are very heartwarming, very well crafted and leave the reader with never-ending smiles on their faces. A great gift for children and those young at heart!