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A Fascinating Fantasy
by Ramendra Kumar

Dear Reader, let me give you the lowdown on one of the most happening parties in Bengaluru :

‘The noblest bug and the lowliest insect rubbed wings and antennae at the biggest blast in town……. Mosquitoes hummed the latest hit tunes from Kannada and Hindi movies. A gang of crickets played Mozart’s symphonies. Bees and wasps electrified the party with heavy metal numbers….Bugs jived to the mosquito music. Antennae wiggled, pincers and proboscis waved with the mounting excitement. Thousands of pairs of gossamer wings fluttered….’

No, this is not Page – 3 report, but a para from Monideepa Sahu’s enjoyable book Riddle of the Seventh Stone!

‘Riddle’ is the story of Rishabh the rat and Shashi the spider, who are living a life of contentment in Venkat Thatha’s rare herb shop. Suddenly one night they are transformed into ‘normal children’ and their world of putrid food and sticky cobwebs gives way to a life of daily school, burdensome homework, yucky food, disgusting baths, stifling discipline such other monstrosities.

Fortunately there is a kind of lifeline available – they can return to their life of delectable dustbins and silken delights every night. But there is lot more at stake than just leading a double life. The not so daring Rishabh and the dynamic Shashi have to rescue not only Venkat Thatha, but also the entire city from the evil money lender and property dealer called Shark. And to achieve this they have to crack the Riddle of the Seventh Stone and get to King Kempe Gowda’s fantabulous treasure.

The duo, with the help of their new found comrades in arms, Leela and Deepak, and a veritable legion of rodents, mosquitoes, roaches and other creatures of the vermin world launch an all out assault on the evil shark. Do the winsome twosome get to the treasure and smash the shark or do they fall a victim to the evil machinations and sinister designs of the monster in human form? Read this engaging book to find out.

The book touched me at several levels. It is an engrossing tale of adventure, suspense and intrigue. It also raises several issues of human behavior and emotion. How Rishabh, a quiet, shy often blundering boy/rat comes into his own and even manages to impress a girl in his quest for the treasure is an engaging track which runs almost parallel to the main theme. His mentor is a big bandicoot, a Bhisma Pitamah / Dumbledore like figure who is ever ready with his gentle words of wisdom and endearing guidance. The human life which Rishabh hates so much in the beginning slowly begins to charm him. At the end when he is told by the bandicoot that he can live the life of a normal kid and turn into a rat on special occasions, he is more than happy. Shashi on the other hand prefers the world of the web and promises to take care of ‘human and verminkind’ !

The plot is racy and the action, often punctuated with subtle touches of sentiment, never slows down. The interaction among the vermin kind and between the ‘creepy crawlies’ and the ‘bipeds ‘is fascinating. Monideepa takes us deep into the world of the vermin – WWW (Wonderful Wide Web) and V(vermin) Mail!!

The writer has a way with words and clearly enjoys sculpting images with them. She has a great sense of humour and the book is sprinkled with nuggets which make you chuckle and chortle.

The production values, as in all books by Young Zuban, are excellent. The illustrations are attractive. At Rs. 195, the book is a steal!

31-Oct-2010
 
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