Book Review

Title: Me and I

(ISBN 978-93-5195-188-9)

Author: Nabendu Ghosh (written in Bengali in 2003)

Translator: Devottam Sengupta ( translated in 2017)

 

Me and I is a science fiction set in Calcutta, exploring the concept of Earth’s twin in the universe. It was written by Nabendu Ghosh for his two grandsons in Bengali, and then translated by one of them as part of his centenary celebrations. The translator, Devottam Ghosh, is a lawyer by profession.

I enjoyed the book. It is an ideal read from eight to eighty, a story well told. The protagonist Mukul has a twin in the planet that is Earth’s mirror image. His parallel is known as Lukum and Earth is spelt as Threa.

The explanation is given by an eccentric gentleman, Professor Noni Gopal Sinha,who is Mukul’s friend and mentor on Earth.

“They’re both, opposite yet identical. Mirror images, really. Just as there are a couple of hundred twins among a million people, similarly I’m sure you can find a twin — identical yet opposite — planets among the billions that exist out there.”

So, it is an inverse parallel universe which is dwelt on briefly as the story unfolds.

The story has multiple layers. On the surface, it is a story for children… a nineteen-year-old boy’s adventure with an alien in outer space. It has been woven very well into the fabric of Indian life. Perspectives on religion, science, society, countries and cultures are layered into the folds of the story. It explores the environment that leads to creativity and the environment that does not. An ideal needs to be somewhere in the middle… perhaps… a point for the reader to ponder…

The book has well-researched scientific facts… on different theories of the universe. Though the author, Nabendu Ghosh, says that he would like “to classify this flight of imagination as a ‘modern(or contemporary) fairy tale’”, it touches upon Einstien’s ideas on gravitational waves and theory of relativity. It dwells upon travel at the speed of light and it’s impact on humans.

A surprising novel from a writer of stories linked to social reforms…but then, one wonders at the end that has the author not made you think again of larger issues that are relevant even in the twenty first century…

Perhaps, because Nabendu Ghosh was into writing for films, this book is very visual and would make for an excellent movie. I can visualise the whole scenario as I read the book…

May we then expect a Tollywood(Bengali movie) version of Me and I in the near future?

Advertisements

The Story of a Doe-eyed Jinn

IMG_0179

 

Thousands of years ago, when mankind was still young and believed in magic, there was a tiny green island peopled by simple, god-fearing fisher folk. In the little village by the seaside, there lived a beautiful girl with pale white skin, pomegranate red lips, jet-black hair. She flit from home to home through the day, bringing happiness with her good nature and helpful attitude. She would play with the children and do little tricks that kept their tears at bay. She would climb tall trees and pluck fruit for the little ones. She would help mothers and wives with household chores and she would listen to the old folks’ tales of glory till they were filled with blessings for her kind heart. She was a winsome little soul and everyone agreed that the man who won her heart would be a lucky one.

One day, a great magician came to the village in a fabulous flying carpet made of gold and silver. He glowed with a magical aura and no one could touch him. He wore a strange robe made of glistening orange and black. He had a long beard and long hair and spoke in a deep, drowning voice. He was like a king from heaven. No one in the village had seen anyone like him. No one knew why he had come to their village and no one asked. He went to the village elder and demanded shelter. The village elder fell under his spell and gave him what he wanted without any questions. In fact, the whole village fell under his spell.

They were stunned by the magic he performed for them. He could stop the rain from wetting the village. It would fall all around but not into the village. It seemed like he had built a dome to keep off the thunder and lightening. He could extend night and day for the village.

The young doe-eyed girl watched him with fascination. The magician saw her from the corner of his eyes and followed her with interest. It would be nice for him to have someone like her around, he thought to himself. In any case, he was tiring off the village and the time had come for him to move on…

The magician came from beyond the stars and the moon. He had travelled around the world in quest of a special magic that would make him more powerful than the men who ruled his home. He wanted to be a king. He was a man who loved power and lived for only his own needs. This young girl could ward away his loneliness and help him find the magic. The magician approached the village elder and asked for the girl’s hand. The village elder was totally under the magician’s mind spell. He would do whatever the magician asked. He agreed. The young girl agreed. Only her mother worried. But the magician put a spell on her mouth so that she could not utter her protests.

The girl went off with the magician on his flying carpet…

For the first few days, the girl lived as if in a dream. They soared among the stars and the moon. From the carpet, which turned invisible and became like a big home, she could see the aurora borealis, fabulous sunrises and sunsets, even the whole Earth as she flew further towards the moon with her magician. Oh! How the girl loved the magician as she saw the wonders of the universe soar past her…the fabulous nebulae, the distant suns, the stars with their swirls of gas and fire…oh! She was fascinated!

At last, they landed on the snowbound ice-cap of the polar region. The magician said, “Now, I will train you and then will begin our real work.”

First, he created a home for them under a warm glowing dome where the temperature was as warm as that of the doe-eyed damsel’s island. It was like a little oasis of warmth in the cold desert of ice and snow. There, he started training her. Sometimes, they would step out into the cold and create a fire with a powder. Sometimes, they would create illusory landscapes, like a volcano or a flower garden. The magician taught the maiden how to keep her body temperature constant in cold and warm weather. He taught her to change into a bird and soar the skies. He taught her how to control her and others’ minds, how to move objects from a distance. She learned fast.

After six months of intensive training, the magician told her it was time to start work…to look for a new magic…

They set sail on the magic carpet and soared the world, visiting deep caverns, river and sea-beds for ancient magic. And the doe-eyed winsome girl became an expert magician. She could turn to dust a predator lurking in the deeps of the sea, swim like a mermaid into underwater caverns, create light and darkness…just like her magician. In addition she had a pure heart, a necessity that the bearded magician for all his charm lacked. It was with the echoes of her heart that she would be able to feel the pure magic. Unfortunately for the magician, his heart was tainted by personal ambition and greed. It could not sense the echoes of magic that needed a pure heart. He had searched everywhere on Earth for the magic but it was lost to him.

Another six months passed. The magic was still concealed from them. Then, one day as they delved deep into a dark cave on a mountainside, they found the magic in a rock. It echoed in the doe eyed girl’s heart. She heard the echoes and told her magician. The magician took out a ring and put a halo around the rock. It floated up, became tiny and swept into an empty socket of the ring. It was strange magic. The magician was very happy. He said, “I know this is the right magic because it responded to the call of the ring.” That day they went to a nearby village and partied with the villagers. They had visited the village earlier and the villagers knew them as a devoted couple. They had fireworks and fancy food. They sang and danced late into he night.

That night they all went to bed late.

The sun caressed the doe-eyed damsel with its morning rays. The doe-eyed damsel woke up to an empty bed. Her magician had left with the ancient magic, ring and carpet. He left a note bidding her farewell forever. The doe-eyed damsel wept till her eyes were swollen and red.

When the villagers heard of her plight, they condemned her as an abandoned woman. Her husband left her because she was flawed, they said. The doe-eyed girl cried and cried and then decided to return home. She took to the skies like a swallow, alighted at her village and returned to her original form. When she returned without the magician and wept out her tale, people turned their faces away. Her mother hung her head in shame for an abandoned wife was considered a valueless and shameless commodity in the world of men. Her mother could not take in the shame and died of a broken heart. The doe-eyed one no longer brought smiles to the villagers but, in their opinion, only bad luck.

She lived in the outskirts of the village and perfected her magic. One day, embittered by a sense of rejection, she took the form of a black crane and flew all the way to the desert sands. There she haunted caravanserais for a few years hoping her magician would return at some point and find her. When the bearded one did not return and men jeered at her and wounded her self-respect, she started turning them into lizards and cockroaches. People began to regard her as a woman with a black heart. Only the wicked came to her for magical help and she obliged. She was a woman who had lost her senses in a battle to survive with honour.

Sometimes, she would turn herself into a whirlwind and baffle men who had jeered at her. Sometimes, she descended like black smoke on unsuspecting wayfarers and frightened them with ugly faces.

One day when she descended on a group of travellers as a whirlwind and started making frightening faces at them, a clever trader outwitted her. He said, he did not believe that she was a powerful magician. The doe-eyed one wanted to convince him. She asked, “What can I do to convince you? Should I turn you into a worm?”

He replied,“ I will believe you are a really powerful magician if you can get into this tiny jar” and he waved an empty wine bottle under her nose.

“Oh that is easy,” she replied and turned into black smoke and entered the jar. The trader promptly closed the jar. However much she shouted, he would not let her out. He took the jar to the next caravanserai and threw it among all the empty bottles that littered the garbage area.

The doe-eyed one waited patiently for someone to open the bottle. She turned herself invisible and made a home in the old wine jar, waiting for more than ten centuries to be let out…

 

 

The Creators

IMG_0097

11

Jacaranda dug into her string bag and pulled out a small, jeweled box. She opened it and took out three sugared balls colored like the rainbow. They seemed to have an iridescent glow about them.

“Here, take one each and chew,” she said.

“ Are you sure?” asked Gorge.

“Trust me,” said Jacaranda and she took one. As she chewed the pill, her neck shimmered like a rainbow, the glow spread to her body and then, she could not be seen anymore! Only the other two sugared pills remained visible. They seemed to be standing in mid-air.

“Hey! Where are you?” said Gorge.

“Show yourself!” said Jasmine.

“I can’t …not for the next hour anyway. This is the result of the invisibility pill. You both take yours, then, you will be able to see me. I can see you. We can start our hunt then. Hurry!” said Jacaranda.

Jasmine and Gorge picked up the pills and chewed. They too shimmered and disappeared.

“Hey, I can see you now!” said Gorge.

“Okay. We are all set now,” said Jasmine. “We should enter the building and look for Jasper, our technological self.”

Saying this, she moved towards the lift door under the rooftop shelter. She pressed the button. The lift came up. As the door opened, a man wearing a mind police uniform came out with a weapon and a radio. He could not see them. He was looking around but could see no one. He went back into the lift. The three of them slipped into the lift with him and descended into the building.

The mind policeman went back to Jasper’s office.

“There was no one in the lift,” he told the officer. The mind police seemed to have set their headquarters in Jasper’s office.

“It is strange that the lift should be called to the rooftop by no one,” said the officer. “Perhaps we should investigate. Kaspar, you keep an eye on things here. The rest of you, let us go up.”

Jasmine, Jacaranda and Gorge had followed the policeman down. They watched and heard the mind police. But the mind police could not see the three standing in the middle of the room.

Jasmine gestured to the other two to follow her. She stepped quietly into the corridor and ran down. Then she entered a room that seemed empty.

“Have they got Jasper?” Jasmine said in a loud whisper to the other two.

“How can we find out?” said Jacaranda.

“Perhaps, if we can get out of here, I can connect with the universal mind stream and find out,” said Jasmine.

“What if they spot your thought wave and come for us?” said Gorge.

“They still cannot see me. So, if I close my mind again, they will lose us,” said Jasmine. “Let us first get out of this building. Look for exit signs.”

The three of them ran out again. They were wearing rubber-soled shoes. As they walked past Jasper’s office again, they could hear voices.

“Why do you think the lift was called up?”

“Do you think that boy could still be in the building or has the girl got here?”

“No. It could not be the girl. She has that uncontrolled mind of Golliwog with her. JaJa cannot shut off her telepathic mind ever…”

“JaJa was not with her in the dragon cloud, remember. We lost them in the sky…property of the dragon cloud the Doom gang said…”

“Wonder if they are still in the sky above us…”

“Strange the way we lost that lot and the boy…”

“Will you shut up and focus on finding them if you value your necks,” said an angry voice which belonged to the commanding officer.

The three ran past the door. As they descended the staircase, they could see guards standing at the door. How could they step out without being noticed, eventhough they were invisible.

Again, the three ducked into an empty room near the exit. This time Gorge came up with an idea.

“You both run for the exit. I will drop something in this room and run and join you. That way when the guard comes to investigate, we can slip out. Do not wait for me. Open the door as soon as the guards enter this room,” said Gorge.

“Sounds like a plan,” said Jasmine.

Jacaranda and Jasmine headed for the front door. As they reached the door, they heard a loud sound. Gorge had picked up a glass paperweight on the table and dropped it. It had smashed to smithereens. One of the guards ran to investigate. Gorge was heading for the exit.

“Hey, you better join me here,” shouted the guard in the room. “There is broken glass all over. No one seems to be around. No one has left the room. It is bizarre. Please come fast.”

As soon as the second guard entered the room and the door was left unprotected, Jacaranda opened the swinging door and the three of them slipped out.

As they ran on the snow, which was coming down fast now, they could see their footsteps leaving marks on the soft white snow that covered the ground. There were round tables and chairs covered with snow in what had been the garden of the building.

“I think the falling snow will cover our footprints,” said Gorge aloud.

“I need a shelter to stand and focus. It is freezing here,” said Jasmine.

“Let’s go under that shed,” said Jacaranda. It was the shed for the parking the flying cars of visitors. The three went in and Jasmine closed her eyes for a couple of minutes. Then she opened them. Her eyes looked frightened.

“Quick, let’s run. I have blocked my mind again. The mind police has figured out that we are hiding here,” she said.

As she was finishing her sentence, the door of the building opened and the mind police started filing out. The three of them ran towards the building. The mind police continued pouring out of the door and running past them towards the parking shed. They, of course, could not see the invisible trio. The three of them slipped in through the open door without bumping into the guards and got into the building.

Again, inside an empty room, the three spoke in whispers. There were still voices of the mind police in the building.

“We need to pinge out to a safe spot,” whispered Jasmine.

“Where?” said Jacaranda.

“Have they got him?” asked Gorge.

“No. But they are angry to have lost all of us. They will kill if they spot any of us,” said Jasmine. “We will need to locate him from a safer spot. Let us go back to that favorite island of yours Jacaranda…the isle of wonder in magicland.”

“We need to hurry. It is past fifty minutes since we took the invisibility pills. The effect of the pill will wear off soon,” said Jacaranda.

Jasmine had the tongs in her hand. Gorge and Jacaranda held on to her shoulders as she clapped the tongs. They pinged. They were still invisible when they landed on the grass of a meadow on the island.

“We will lose our invisibility in few minutes,” said Jacaranda. “We need to find shelter once we are visible.”

“Before that, can we get rid of these clothes? It is warm here,” said Gorge.

“Here goes,” said Jacaranda. She mumbled something and the three were back to their normal war.

“Let’s make a run for shelter,” said Jasmine.

“I know there is a cave near the hill,” said Jacaranda. “We could use that.”

The three ran for the wooded area and then started walking towards the hills.

“Are you guys hungry or not?” said Gorge.

“Okay. Here is a sandwich for each of us,” said Jacaranda, swishing her arms and mumbling a chant. She handed them a sandwich and a packet of milk each. They ate as they walked through the woods in search of shelter. They came upon a stream with fishes of all colors, shapes and sizes.

“We are close now,” said Jacaranda. “ This stream will lead us to the hills and the cave.”

They walked for another half an hour and they were at the foothills. The stream fell like a waterfall from the hill.

“The cave is just there,” said Jacaranda.

The three of them walked towards the cave.

Safe in his hideout in the technological dimension, Jasper was worried. After dinner, he told Matilda, “Tomorrow, I need to try to contact this girl. Perhaps, I will leave our hideout for a short while, fly out to the sky and try to reach her again telepathically…”

“I am scared when you go out like this,” said Matilda.

“I have to for our baby’s sake and our sake try to find a final solution. I did not want to be caught in this crossfire. We have to find a way out. Don’t worry, I won’t be caught,” said Jasper.