When life seemed simpler



The lazy
conman and other
stories:
folktales from nepal
Ajit Baral,
Penguin, 2009,
pp 196, Rs 250

It is not just religion that binds Nepal, the only Hindu country in the world, to India but also the customs, traditions and culture of this region including even its folktales, are reflective of the deep bond that this little country shares with India. The Lazy Conman and Other Stories, a collection of folktales from Nepal by Ajit Baral is a delightful read for its lovely portrayal of the land of Nepal.

Each of the 31 stories in the book is just what the doctor ordered for those caught in the mayhem of modern day living. Here there are trees that grow clothes on them; gods make wagers with humans and lose; a king’s habitual sleep in the middle of storytelling attracts the wrath of the Goddess of Tales; animals drop gold pellets and deceive gods; one learns why the beautiful Laligurans trees grow on the hills and mountain tops of Nepal and why the Uttis trees, despite being strong and evergreen, grow only in the gullies and ravines.

Ajit Baral’s effort in bringing out this lovely collection of stories from Nepal is laudable, especially at a time when such enchanting stories and the art of storytelling are slowly fading into oblivion. Dipped in the refreshing flavour of the misty mountains of Nepal, these stories bring to life an unknown past when man’s connection with nature was stronger and deeper, and life was much simpler.

Mostly handed down orally from generation to generation, these stories talk of the innocent joys, sorrows, mysteries and miracles in the lives of the mainly agrarian population of Nepal. The Indianness of the names of the characters, plots, emotions, morals, etc., in the stories particularly strikes a chord with the Indian reader. The author’s presentation of the tales is simple and entertaining.  

The icing on the cake are the illustrations by Nepal’s leading cartoonist Durga Baral, whose drawings do full justice to the stories. His art greatly enhances the quality of the book and makes the whole experience worth cherishing.

The only minus point of the book is the lazy editing thanks to which some grammar mistakes are left unchecked. The Lazy Conman and Other Stories is a rare treat for all those who still believe in the unadulterated magic of a world minus technology and its numerous distractions. And for those who have forgotten about such a possibility, well, this one promises to be a good reminder of that!

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