When I discovered Ranjit Lal a few months back, I decided to explore further and bought this book, based on the title and the blurb. But I procrastinated the reading for too long, being entangled in other priorities.
A certain industrialist and a certain minister in Delhi’s South Block conspire to ‘devlope’ a national park, however the national park is a notified area, which prohibits it being used for development. So, they plot to let Gutka the Gross (a Simian) and his Horde of One Hundred loose in the park. They hope that, given their notorious background of having cleared the Parliament in two minutes, they will wreak havoc in the park within a month. This could get the park denotified and they can have their way.
At the Waterhole of the Truce at the Shikargunj National Park, there is a meeting to decide the top predator of the park. Dhoomdham the leopard, Giggles and Khoobsurat the striped hyenas, Bholu the elephant, Gucci the crocodile, Veer Bahadur the jackal, Goldust the chital stag, Meheg and Attar the wild boars( and their dozen Yumyum piglets) get together.
Veer Bahadur throws a challenge at Dhoomdham, that if he succeeds in bringing the girl with the high pony tail in the Forest Resthouse (Aranya) by next morning, he could be crowned the top predator. But if he fails to do so, then he, Veer Bahadur will be crowned.
Dhoomdham sets out to the resthouse. In the meanwhile, Gutka and his 100 fellow simians have been brought to the lobby of the office in a crate, apparently for their rehabilitation. Gutka and his horde manage to not only break open their cage, but also set the office on fire by early next morning. Dhoomdham also is at the receiving end of their wrath when he crosses their path.
Dhoomdham’s efforts having failed, he goes to the waterhole for the meeting and announces the arrival of the simians. Meanwhile the simians themselves are on their way to the waterhole. They surround the waterhole, take three of the yumyum piglets captive and go up the watchtower.
The ransom that Gutka demands of the native animals is good food by evening. As Meheg and Attar go in search of the ransom, the other animals debate on whether to give in to Gutka’s demands or to ignore them. The rest of the piglets plan the rescue of their siblings, along with Bholu and Dhoomdham.
Gucci remains in hiding under water. When a few young simians go to the pond to play, Gucci relishes them and brings down Gutka’s team by six. Gucci also takes Gutka’s son Munna captive and demands Aranya, the girl in exchange.
Gutka is advised by Thook, a fellow simian, to pass on Gucci’s demand to the other animals. So, when Meheg and Attar bring food, they are met with the additional demand for Aranya. The free piglets lure Aranya and bring her to the pond, and Munna is released. But Gutka demands that they be ensured safe passage to Delhi’s South Block, before he releases the captive piglets.
The free piglets, along with Bholu and Dhoomdham, go in search of Pagla Reech the bear to find out what South Block is. Pagla Reech suggests getting the help of the temple langurs. The langurs find the piglets impure and shun their request.
How do the animals eventually manage to get the captive piglets released? Read this interesting story with many twists and turns to find out.
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- Read the book as a story about animals in the forest and their expression of greed, desire, power, hatred and love and enjoy it. There are hilarious incidents involving the clumsy Dhoomdham, the cunning Veer, the sly Gucci and the other animals. The way the ecosystem interacts is brought out with a lot of imagination and humour.
- Read the story between the lines and explore the hidden meaning. Draw analogies to incidents or people you know of, who must remain anonymous (or I’ll get killed). It is enjoyable this way too. This gives a bird’s eye view of the power politics that we see around us.
- The naming of the characters have been apt and elicit a smile.
Ingenuous and wicked!