Monday, June 9, 2014

A tale for the old and the young

Reviewed this book for the Sunday pages. Funny, wise fable!

Name: Junglezen Sheru
By: Samarpan
Published by: Pan Macmillan India
Price: Rs 150

In a jungle, its king, the lion, is no more and so the animals look towards his cub to lead them. But, Sheru the cub, doesn't know that he is meant to rule. Instead he takes pride in being the royal carrier of Kapi, the monkey, who takes over the reins of the forest. Sheru, after the death of his parents, is adopted by Muktak, the wise old elephant
. But like any restless child, he hates Muktak's sermons and constant goading to 'behave like a lion!' Sheru ignores the wise creatures and their teachings and falls in line with the scheming and the coward, who don't want the cub to rise to his core strength or individuality.
It's a funny, wise animal fable, by Samarpan a monk, but scratch the surface and you will find the similarities in the human world, our leaders, the social and political hierarchy and the 'monkeys' we carry on our backs.
Junglezen Sheru runs on the lines of George Orwell's Animal Farm and also combines elements from Panchatantra and Jatak tales. But while Orwell's is a scathing, sarcastic and painfully tragic commentary on socialism, Samarpan has kept the tone 'tongue-in-cheek'. His lucid prose debates on individuality, traits of good leadership and perfection as opposed to the 'collective.'
To put it in the words of Kurma, the wise old tortoise, 'The goal of life is to be universal. Confuse this not with the collective, for the journey from the collective to the universal can be made only by possessing a strong sense of individuality. If you have no individuality, you will end up with the collective.'
Each chapter of the book is preceded by quotes or verses picked from the Upanishads, the Bible, Swami Vivekanada and Acharya Shankara that tells the turn the story will take. The end of the story, is however, open to readers interpretation. And, according to my interpretation Sheru would go back to the battlefield and lead from the front. After all, a lion will be a lion, right?

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