“Nalini Ramachandran has put together a book with the potential to be fascinating.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Nalini Ramachandran has put together a book with the potential to be fascinating. She explores the different story telling methods in India, travelling from state to state. She strings her tale on a girl called Mohini who comes from a family of story tellers but who lacks the talent to string a plot together. Eventually she runs away and meets a horned spirit called Katha who puts her under a spell.
Led by Katha, Mohini finds herself teleported across the nation with no surety of where she will land next. And she experiences the different story traditions from that of Pulga and the birth of fire in the Andamans to the wandering Phad shrine of Rajasthan to the stories woven in Naga shawls. Along with the traditions come the different tools used to tell the stories, masks, rangolis, wooden puppets and the like. Through her wanderings Mohini learns that there are many ways to tell stories and that the same story can even have variations.
To have covered all the traditions and stories in depth would have made a monolithic tome of a book and Ramachandran has reined in her enthusiasm by reducing the stories to bare outlines in many cases, making them easy for children to take in perhaps. However, adult collectors with be delighted to have this book as a ready reference with the illustrations which give a colourful introduction to the crafts. The traditions are set out in alphabetical order and while it tells the story of the unique education of a young storyteller, it can serve as an education for a child with the help of the corresponding adult. The title of course, is a pun – the lore of the land is its law of being.
Does Mohini learn the error of her ways? That is for the reader to discover.
Added 4th March 2018