Continuing with the Pratham books round-up, the next book to be reviewed is Kallu’s World 2: Monkey Business on Stage.
Kallu lives in a small village, Khajuria, in the northern part of India, with his brother Shabbo, sister Munia and his Abbu and Ammi. It is a small enough village, where everyone probably knows everyone else. There is Damu, his best friend, and Damu’s sister, Saru. There is a school headed by Masterji, then there is Badri, the mad buffalo man. Using this setting, the author creates a story from a day in the lives of these people.
In Kallu’s World 1 the story is about Kallu’s chronic problem of reaching school late. In Kallu’s world 2, Dussehra is fast approaching and Khajuria is afflicted by Ramlila fever. Besides being the head of the school, Masterji is also the head of the Khajuria Ramlila party – he is the producer, script writer, music director and director all rolled into one. He decides what is to be enacted and who is to play what part each year. The village is abuzz with excitement – which scene is going to be enacted – is it the Sita’s Swayamvar scene, or Kaikeyi plotting with Manthara (Kooni), or Hanuman setting fire to Lanka?
This year the boys are thrilled to get a part – they play monkeys in the vanar sena in the final battle scene – though they have nothing more to do than jump around on the stage waving maces and swords. Badri, as usual plays Hanuman, and is a favourite among the crowd for his performances. The story describes the events that lead up to the final performances. What Badri does to make the Ramlila memorable nicely wraps up the story and brings a smile on one’s face.
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- Working on wafer thin plots, using a minimal set of characters and easily relatable incidents in a village, Sen Gupta effectively brings to life events from a typical Indian village on the verge of change. Khajuria is a small village – everyone knows everyone else and their quirks. Life in Khajuria is participatory – everyone participates in all the village activities and functions. It is yet to feel the change that have affected bigger towns – it has a single teacher school; electricity has just reached the village recently; women and girls are still not allowed to participate in public performances; Damu and Kallu aspire to start a dhaba-cum-STD booth-cum-computer centre. The style is reminiscent of R K Narayanan’s Swamy and Friends, though written for a younger audience.
- The bright and colourful illustrations are a pleasant complement to the story.
Kallu’s world – a slice of village life!