Make-believe magic!

Make-believe magic!

Make-believe magic!

Monkeys have never looked more inviting than in this slim book by Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan. Doughty, discerning matriarchs who enjoy a good tipple of home-brewed kashayam, growly-grunty but kindly ‘thande’s (dads) who keep the clan together and a vibrant vanara called Gind, who displays a grade schooler's swelling pride in his own newfound competence, nimbly lead you from one rollicking escapade to another in the action-packed fantasy that unfolds in the forests of South India.

From the cozy warmth of his leafy tree home in the jungles of Poompuhar, Gind finds himself in the thick of an adventure, where he must journey through forests swarming with sharp-clawed rakshashas, wrathful devas and perenially-hungry wild beasts with an appetite for muscular monkeys.

His mission: to restore Ongchu, a kidnapped vanara princess, to Baulpur, her home beyond the Himalayas. Gind, The Magical Adventures of a Vanara, has a cinematic opening, plenty of cliffhanger moments and enough oddball characters -- like the vanara chieftain with 23 wives -- to keep you rivetted.

Be warned: the story isn’t told just for laughs.  It may be amusing but it is also engaging because it tells us -- plain old humans -- about virtues that lesser evolved beings possess.

I loved the book for its wit -- irreverent and refreshing;  its ‘trick’ appeal (there a ‘special’ language for you to try out

when you want to share secrets with your pals), its non-stop verve and its celebration of cross-generational bonds. It’s also appealing because even in the world of make-believe, there are rules that ensure that justice is done.

My only gripe: I wish there were more of those Black & White illustrations by Prasun
Mazumdar. As the story reaches its inevitable outcome (the triumph of good over evil), the vanaras might become your most favourite species in the world!