Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Making a Mango Whistle, by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, reviewed by Minakshi Jaswal

The book is a story of a family, a priest by vocation but still the headman of the family seems to have maintained his silence on a lot of wrong around him, the ill-treatment of his sister by his wife for instance.

The book starts on how a little girl Dugga is so deeply attached to her father's sister whom she lovingly calls 'pishima' and how the wife ridicules and pushes the old lady out of the house more than once. The girl is shown to be bold and in love with nature, a free spirit. The mother seems to have an indifferent attitude in the beginning of the book, or so it seems which gradually softens a little towards the middle of the story.

When pishima dies the story seems to move on without too many bumps but when there is another loss of life in the later half of the book, the story seems to come to a sad and abrupt point. The birth of Dugga's brother Koka comes as a whiff of fresh air in the story. The author has described him as one of the most beautiful children.

Koka's innocence, his running after hare in the jungle, his rushing to his mother and being scared of her and having his food without a demur for the fact that he might get scolded, yet his taking a stand when his mother thrashed Dugga for a theft she was accused of shows that though he is young, he has an understanding which sometimes even people of a ripe age lack. His coyness and inhibitions in making friends initially in school , yet his being able to make conversation with people much older than his father leaves the reader thinking that the child is gifted with knowledge in abundance. The thirst for reading that the child has in him and the way he goes in the jungle practicing the scenes of Mahabharata all by himself go on to show how like any other child he also lives in a make believe world for the major part of his childhood.

The relation between Dugga and Koka is the highlight of the story. She wanders all by herself all day long but at the end of the day, she makes it a point to share the booty of the fruits she gathers from people's gardens. The story is compassionate as each member of the poverty striken family, does not feel bad for themselves or ask for anything, rather they feel sad for others of the family being deprived of a certain thing, eg books for koka, clothes for the wife or Dugga or rich food on occasions for the family.

The major part of the story is light and though the family goes through rough patches the writer makes up by filling in adequate incidents of the playful childhood of the children which prevents the story from going sombre.

The part where the village is flooded and Dugga's father is away looking for work but not finding any, the family in the village not having money for two square meals, Koka's mother selling off articles for the sustainance of the children to buy rice and feed them, Dugga suffering malaria and her wish to see trains and Kokas assurance that they would all go to bathe in the Ganges when she became better is heart wrenching. Dugga's death leaves the reader cheated who while reading the book has been wishing all along for her to get well and that the children would be fine.

The last part where the family, now only consisting of the parents and Koka, is a sort of detachment from the village and shows how the little boy is promising his sister that he is being forcibly taken away from her but that he would never forget her - definitely moves the readers heart.

The book on the whole would get a rating of 7/10 and it is addictive if one wants to be a part of the idiosyncracies of the children's lives as it puts you back in time and makes you forget your daily worries. Not a mandatory read but yes if given a chance, and having the time, one must read the book.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't this the same as 'The song of the road' or 'Pather Panchali' as we know it? And the character I knew was Apu, who becomes the pillar of the trilogy.
    The drama is heart wrenching and the cinematic adaptation gives a viewer the kind of satisfaction that is available only from the highest levels of visual art forms