When two celebrated artists, one wielding the pen and the other a paint brush collaborate, what do you expect? Jangal Nama is a beautifully retold episode of a legend from the Sundarbans, in verse, with rhyming couplets and fluid images. Only on a single occasion do I find Amitav Ghosh faltering, when he uses ‘peepul’ in order to adhere to the constraints of rhyme. Peepul trees are not found in mangrove forests.
At first sight, the very well-produced hardbound volume may seem like a children’s book. My 12-year-old daughter gave it a quick read. The following are her observations: The dialogues are like poems; Dokkhin Rai is a personification of evil; he takes advantage of negative qualities of humans, like greed; he appears to be a tyrant; the book shows that good forces like Bon Bibi can’t fully subdue evil like Dokkhin Rai, but can restrain it; evil never really ceases and is reawakened by human frailties. It indeed is a children’s book, with hauntingly beautiful illustrations. It is for adults too, with a central theme of responsible consumption and production.