“This book is no teleporter, but it will transport you to a fabulous land of strange creatures and odd heroes, and where things are never what they seem.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
Yakshas who command clouds and are a kind of forgotten being in Indian mythology, a gardener with a mission to raise blue lotuses and a thousand year old girl and an apple tree – not to mention a river crocodile shaped earring which teleports. All these are the elements that make Shalini Srinivasan’s Gangamma’s Gharial so fascinating. Most children in modern India have forgotten their mythology simply because grandmothers are no longer on tap to tell them stories. Srinivasan uses these old stories to create a modern tale of adventure with teleporting and environmental concerns thrown in.
The tale is a clash between two sets of thought – that of the yaksha’s who are convinced that their claustrophobic inward existence is right and that of Gangamma and the gardeners who believe in the beauty of the outer world. It is also the tale of a rebellion, 12 breakaway yakshas kickstart the whole thing.
Srinivasan has an eye for detail, the aromas of the Giripuram bazaar where Gangamma sells the flowers that she grows, the diamond teeth of the crocodile shaped earring, the rivalry between the gardeners. Gangamma is feisty and outspoken much like many crabbity old ladies that we know who are determined to prove a point. The girl Ondu is a match for her which I suppose, given the fact that she is a thousand odd, gives her the right.
The story could have been a tad longer – certainly the internal squabbles of the yakshas needed fleshing out as did the nature of the yakshas – the one in Kalidas’ Meghdoot was certain an external being. Occasionally too, the teleporting becomes too much of a good thing and the link to the gods and the rebellious ones is hinted at.
What sets the book apart from the rest is the fact that it takes Indian mythology to create an adventure for modern children – and a talking teleporting earring is definitely a new twist on good old fashioned magic.
Added 26th May 2016