The ‘I’ Of The Tiger

Not a book to just skip through. You are so spellbound that you just don’t want to miss a word
In The Shadow Of The Leaves
By Anjana Basu
Teri Press | Pages: 176 | Rs. 250

When I first picked up this book, I thought, ‘Ah! I’ll be done with this one by the evening’. It’s a slim little one that seemed to be an easy read. However, three days later and I’m still gasping to catch my breath. For this is not a book to just skip through. You are so spellbound that you just don’t want to miss a word. Big hearts really do come in small packages.

Advertisement

The cover has a tiger approaching you, emerging out of a forest. But this is not a usual tiger story. Because some of it is told in the tiger’s own voice. And those are my favourite parts, because Anjana really does get into the tiger’s skin to bring us never seen before insights into the big cat’s world. There’s a particularly hair-­raising moment. You first see the incident from the point of view of the young protagonists—Rohan, a city boy struggling with maths and holiday homework, and Manjul, a village girl who herds her cows, struggling to put some money for her father’s operation. Both are out further into the forest than they’ve ever been before. They don’t notice the grass shaking more than the breeze could be shaking it. They leave, unaware of the danger that was so close. Turn the page and you read the same incident, but seen through the tiger’s eyes. And he’s close, just a deadly leap away.

The story packs in a lot of information about that bane of our times, human-animal conflict, and the need for buffer zones. But it’s so well entwined into the story that you don’t get burdened with explanations. It’s an useful skill for an author, especia­lly one writing for young people, for you can’t be giving them a lecture. And yet, if you don’t explain, there are going to be gaps in the story. Anjana gets this delicate balance right.

Advertisement

Otherwise wonderful, the story is wrapped up too perfectly. The author could have left a few questions unanswered.

And then, there’s a ghost. Unbelievably, there’s so much packed into this tiny book. He’s creepy at first and does manage to spook. You’re scared and grateful for him at the same time. However, I felt he comes out in the open a bit too much. As perhaps does the tiger. I think the cover of the forest would have served the narrative better, kept both tiger and ghost more shadowy and less approachable. As it is, they get kind of friendly, which takes away the spook factor.

The other problem I had with this otherwise wise and wonderful book is that it’s wrapped up too perfectly. In the battle for land, the human-ani­mal conflict, there are no easy answers. So the author did not need to provide them. She could have left some questions unanswered. Sometimes we tend to forget the wisdom of children and feel we must provide answers. We don’t. I believe in letting young readers feel the discomfort of unanswered questions, unresolved problems. There wasn’t any need to sugar this charmer of a book.

Advertisement

And now I am a bit overwhelmed. I too have been busy writing a first-person tiger book. How do I deal with those maddening, undealable mom­ents? How do I reveal enough, but not too much? Yes, it’s easier to write a critique than a book.


(Paro Anand is the author of many children and young adult books)

READ MORE IN:
Raymond’s In Pingakshipura Bibliofile
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
  • Daily Mail
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
REVIEW
Review
Taslima’s solipsistic atomism jars, but one must admire her spirit in the face of slimy intolerance
MAGAZINE December 01, 2016
Review
The autobiography of one of our top scientists avoids scientific matters, or even the state of Indian scientific research. It’s just a roster of his many accomplishments.
MAGAZINE December 01, 2016
Cover Story
An extract from the chapter ‘Why did the CBI avoid (capturing) ­Sivarasan?’ from Rajiv Gandhi assassination convict Nalini Murugan’s ­recently released memoir, Rajiv Killing: Forgotten Truths
MAGAZINE November 25, 2016
Review
An account of late imperial hypocrisy has interpretive errors, but is valuable for the British story
MAGAZINE November 24, 2016
Review
Devdutt Pattanaik’s eminently readable book compares the Indian and Greek myth systems to find convergences and divergences, all through an Indic prism
MAGAZINE November 24, 2016
read more>>>

OUTLOOK TOPICS :

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

or just type initial letters