“For readers in search of adventure “
Ranjit Lal has taken a detour from his entertaining tales of pigs, sparrows and monkeys to wander into the world of young adults. In this case Shoma known as Budgie and Brijesh or Bridge, two children from broken homes who live with Shoma’s Nanai in her ancestral home in Meghtal. Nani apparently rents the house out to guests as a homestay but at the time of the story it is mainly occupied by Soma’s aunt, uncle and cousins from England. Aditi and Siddhartha are birdwatchers with plummy accents and Aditi has it in for Shoma. The two of them fall out at every given time and oddly enough, for a girl who lives in Uttarkhand, Shoma paints very well but is totally uninterested in the different types of birds around her. Brijesh on the other hand, recovering from an abusive father and the death of his mother is a sitting duck for both girls/ Aditi likes his good looks while Shoma invites him to come bike riding to spite Aditi. There is also a huge dog called Big Djinn who isn’t afraid to take on the local leopards and does save a girl’s life.
Just when the reader is beginning to feel that the catfights between Aditi and her relatives are getting out of hand, Lal throws in a sleazy builder who slices off the top of a mountain to create a golf course. He also, unsurprisingly, has designs on Shoma’s Nani’s land, perfect for building a resort. Nani refuses despite the fact that her relatives are horrified by her not realising what an honour the offer is. Sadly, Nanai’s character is slightly wavering for a teacher cum activist – she appears to have little control over her family – though one could put it down to being immersed in non materialistic pursuits.
There are elements that young adults will enjoy, a frisson of teenage sexual awakening between Shoma and Brijesh, the catfights with those awful relatives who live abroad, mountain biking and a slight cock a snook attitude to those who think that birdwatching is a past time with attitude regardless of anyone else’s feelings which is a little surprising from Lal, but realistic.
For readers in search of adventure the pace speeds up towards the end. The great builder proves to be an unscrupulous as such people are – there is a scrambling of the Adani surname somewhere in the story – and he is not averse to destroying people or children who get in his way. Of course, Lal points out, nature will have her revenge if ill-treated and humans had better treat her with respect.
Added 24th January 2020