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Monkey Business, And More...
The Life and Times of Altu Faltu -- A Fable
By Ranjit Lal
Pages 374; Rs. 250
IT'S a fable, so the title tells us. Altu Faltu, a puny, weak rhesus macaque with a predilection for the bottle, falls in love with Rani-beti, the golden-eyed daughter of Chaudhury Charbi Raisahib, already engaged to be married to the huge and coarse Bade Badtameez, Chief of the Tughlakabadi (Thug-lakabadi to some) clan. The young lovers elope, chased by family and foe, including the lascivious Leechadji. The most melodramatic Hindi film would pale in comparison to the trials and tribulations of the hapless couple. In the end, of course, everything ends happily for Altu Faltu and Rani-beti who by then becomes an unwed mother! The story is a gentle indictment of the present-day power politics and value systems. Younger brother Haramisahib pretends to help Raisahib but deviously plots to oust him from his Flagstaff zamindari and rule over both his and his brother's territories. Three clans go to war over nothing less important than Rani-beti's elopement. The story rushes from one climax to another. Altu Faltu gets the best of a situation not because of his commonsense; he comes across as a weak-kneed, jelly belly who wins in the end. Maybe that is the fable: in today's world you can be altu faltu, yet get the best of everything. Too long by at least a quarter, it's not a Harry Potter but worth a read.