Ravana Refuses To Die by Rustom Dadachanji is a collection of four short stories about the antics of a gang of four youngsters living in the village of Babubari, appropriate for 10 to 13 year old kids. The gang consists of a boy Chippa, whose father is a barber and a great story teller, his younger cousin Chipkili, a 7 year old girl, and two of his friends Jitu and Muru. Muru is short for Murali who is a pedantic geek and the self appointed brains of the gang. Each story is a stand alone adventure set in Babubari, featuring the gang and other recurring characters, who are residents of the village.
The first story is about a Ram Leela performance in the village of Babubari. The members of the gang are arguing about the virtues and powers of Ravana, when they decide who better to ask than Ravana himself. The kids pop in to Ravana’s tent and are overwhelmed by the demon king’s tremendous power. Is his sweat a potent poison, or are his snores radioactive and how much ear wax do 10 pairs of ears on the 10 heads generate? Will curiosity win out or will the gang decide that discretion is the better part of valour?
The second story is about the gang building a vimana for space travel. But where will these kids get all the items they need? Will the vimana actually fly? How do they explain themselves to irate grown-ups?
In the third story Chipkili is kidnapped by a strange and evil baba and it is up to the gang to rescue her. Disguised as monkeys (or is it hanumans), they fearlessly set out on their mission. Will they succeed?
In the fourth story the kids make a new friend, Bhollu, who is a bonded labourer. The gang wants to help Bhollu pay his debts so he can be free again. But it is not going to be easy. Not when there is a greedy ogre in the picture.
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- The stories introduce kids to a lot of scientific terms like Musca domestica, radioactivity, satellites, gyroscope and makes references to ISRO and Aryabhatta and will probably pique curiosity on these subjects.
- At the same time it makes references to various parts of the Ramayana and could get kids curious about Indian mythology as well. Vimanas, hanuman armies, demon kings and their belly buttons. See, now you are curious too. It got me googling anecdotes from parts of the Ramayana that I have forgotten.
- People often take an either/or view of science and mythology. Others try to use science to explain mythology and give it legitimacy. I liked how this book unapologetically and seamlessly transitioned in and out of both, seemingly incompatible subjects. Kids find both subjects fascinating. Laser beams and atom bombs can spark a child’s imagination just as much as villainous demons and flying chariots.
- The book subtly addresses issues like corruption, bonded labour and herd mentality in a simple way that kids can comprehend and empathize with.
- In the story where Chipkili gets kidnapped, it was nice to see how much the gang really cares about her, even though they are often complaining about how annoying she is.
- Sometimes unusual fonts and typesetting are used to give imagery and emphasis to certain phrases.
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- The humour in the first two stories feels forced, as if the author is trying too hard to be funny, although there were a few great puns. Kids may still enjoy the humour, but I found it off putting. The first two stories also seemed anticlimactic.The next two stories flow better. They are engaging and exciting.
- The character development is weak. The characters are neither particularly endearing nor memorable. Muru is identifiable for his nerd talk, but otherwise it is hard to remember who said what.
- There are a few typographical or grammatical errors.
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- The language is casual and authentic for kids that age. They use phrases like dhakkan, ultimate baddie, Don’t blame me if you get pakora-fried, etc and my favourite –
“Look who is talking, you jealous jalebi!”
- Chipkili is excluded for the vimana adventure. While it could be seen as sexist, it is probably a realistic representation of how a lot of (not all of course) boys and girls that age interact.
Mythology with a modern twist.
A copy of this book was given me by the publishers, Duckbill in return for an honest review. Thanks Duckbill.
|Title||Ravana Refuses to Die
|Editor(s)/Author(s)/Illustrator(s)/Translator(s)||Priya Kuriyan (Illustrator), Rustom Dadachanji|