A book review.
Title: The Kite flyers
Author; Dr.Sharad Paul
Publishers HarperCollins India.
The rather sad looking cover of a kite on flight, the title and author’s name I was expecting an another rural Gujarat story with the partition saga thrown in between. I was pleasant surprised to the dedication to my surrogate language Tamil.
The story is begins autobiographically in the first chapter cool cut—set in the back drop of MGR’s regime. Where MGR is the saviour of the Tamils from the onslaught of crude loud Hindi invaders. The gradual deification of MGR creeps very subtly through the story.
Barbers the traditional news reporters and storytellers to the Kings. The tradition has it that the Barber would narrate two stories one true and one made up. The Barber protagonist Kumar adhere’s to this tradition. A lovely quote here “we dream in Tamil, it is a quiet language” as the author is a journalist, the Barber tells him his own story.
This is a very interesting concept that is usually used in Indian stories, that is a listen and a story teller, the listener then shares the story with the world.
The Kiteflyers of KAKAPI celebrate their open air school and identify with the freedom that they share with kites. Another very symbolic southern concept flying a kite is letting your dreams and aspiration free and sharing it with the universe. The story now introduces the triad of Kumar-Lakshmi- Raman; the story draws an interesting conclusion that parents of single children are not happy that’s why they have only one child.
The territorial division of labour in the male and female context, Raman’s journey to Madras, his kidnapping and castration to be converted to eunuch the trauma and gradual acceptance is the theme of The Descend into Nightmare. The abuse of the eunuch’s by society and the eunuch’s retaliation are recorded in the subsequent stories.
In the later stories the kite becomes inspiration, for Kumar to go in search of Lakshmi, for Raman to who is now Ramani to escape the dark world of eunuchs. The meeting of Lakshmi and Kumar, their marriage, the meeting of Ramani and Kumar, finally Kumar and Ramani setting their own Barber’s shop.
Of course the tale has to return to the starting point, so the author throws in the government that clamps down the school at KKP Kumar rescue’s the teacher Gowrie who relocates to Chennai with Kumar and Ramani. With the help of another student they restart a school at KKP in memory of Gowrie who passes away before it is realized.
Some interesting inputs are the author’s fascination for the eunuch Ramani, MGR winning his wife Janaki in a game of cards though not necessarily gelling with the story flows along.
The untouchability issue is also touched upon in the dealings of the government official with Gowrie.
There were some phrases that really got me like “drawing is a line on a journey““a kite can fly against the wind not with it” “teaching is a method of arousing curiosity” all rendered through the character Gowrie.
The book ends with the author sharing the recipe of Lakshmi’s famed burfi’s. Well doc, if you had really got the recipe from Lakshmi, the measures would be in cups, there would be no pistachios or almonds, it would have cashew nuts, saffron would be red colouring.
Over all an interesting read. Slow paced and entrenched in a dying Tamil tradition.
The book was given with compliments of Harper Collin for reviewing.