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'Ek deshe ek Raja chilo…'

One beginning yet so many endings. This very line would be enough captivate the audience, namely us during our toddler years, till the last word was spoken. It was a time when a little imagination, a cold glass of Tang and dim lighting were enough to let our minds free themselves from the constraints of the body and fly into a realm of fantasy where anything was possible. Those were truly sweet times, indeed.

Back then, we would cheer on the young but dauntless Prince who would venture forth, in the place of his elder brothers who had spectacularly failed, to save the lovely Princess. We would utterly despise the wicked stepmother who had so many misfortunes cast upon the daughter of her new husband, the King. And we would, of course, smile and shake our heads at the noble yet absolutely hapless Kings as they would eventually resort to some unknown Prince or his youngest son to rescue the Princess, the Kingdom or even both! There were monstrous ogres and demonic beings that needed slaying; each swipe of the sword, each grunt the hero uttered all these little things were lovingly and lavishly detailed by our nanis and buas in ways that cinema or even literature failed to convey.

My own nani would often break into melodious songs at particular points, beautifully expressing in verse what failed to be done in prose.

It was during those times that one stopped listening with ears and started feeling the tale itself within one's heart. My dadi wouldn't sing but her ghost tales were something to be savoured! It was truly an experience that was just beyond anything this material world could offer.

It's sad how we tend to be overly critical of those very tales now; marking out each of their 'foibles', pointing out 'plot-holes', making fun of the 'stereotypes' flaws that actually gave them their mystique in the first place! We laugh out that it's always the youngest Prince who wins the heart of the Princess. We joke about how the evil giant/troll/rakhkhosh was usually defeated by luck, by putting him to sleep, by finding his weak point (which by the way, was always well-protected or kept in a golden box) or a combination of the above. We now tend to counter impossible feats of heroism and bravery by stating Laws of Physics or Chemistry learned by rote. By picking apart the magic that is the heart of these stories and thrusting it upon the jagged peaks of commonsense and logic we all but destroy the true essence of such fantasies. Shows like CSI and 24 cater to us in the stead of these old yarns simply because they are an extension of our currently complicated and convoluted mindsets. Hindi serials with their layers and layers (and sub-layers) of minute twists, turns and unnecessary intricacies just simply segue well with the thinking patterns of older people regardless of whether they are or aren't like the characters in the shows. Whenever the phrase 'fairy tale' or the word 'roopkotha' pops up it's usually met with derisive snorts on the part of these people. But it's not only them, it's the same for us teenagers and yes, even the young ones of today can't get their satisfaction from simple fantasy yarns anymore. You can call it a 'generation gap'… 'modernisation'… or even 'the way it is nowadays'… but the fact remains that this magical, exquisite art of storytelling is disappearing with our grandparents' generation and you know what? - it's extremely sad.

Sometimes we need to untangle ourselves from the overly Byzantine rigours of everyday life. But this time: put away the remote control, pack up that PS2 controller and unplug those headphones instead, grab yourself a bunch of chocolate chip cookies and head over to your grandmother's house. You just might revel in the very magic that made your childhood such a memorable time!

Book review

This Calder Sky

This week, I'm slowing down the tempo a bit, (what with the breakneck pace of the past few weeks) and giving you a story that's a languorously pleasurable read.

This Calder Sky is part of this huge saga, apparently, and where exactly this particular story fits in, I'm not sure, because one site advertises it as the third book, another as the fifth, and when I read the book itself, there was no mention of a series. Well! Go figure, but read this story first.

The Calder Empire stretches far and wide all over the Montana plains, and at the helm stands Webb Calder, a ruthless authoritarian with a bit of a reputation for lacking something in the heart department. His son and heir, Chase Calder, is expected to marry a real lady and take over the reins someday.

What daddy wants, daddy doesn't get, though, and Chase Calder falls butt over bronco for the tempestuous Maggie O' Rourke, the daughter of Angus O' Rourke, a hot-tempered Irishman who lives on the fringes bordering the Calder ranch.

The blossoming romance is nipped in the bud when the two dads come to loggerheads( a bit of Romeo and Juliet eh?), and a very bitter Maggie flees from Montana to escape the harsh ways of harsh men. She meets a rich doctor and marries him. Chase moves on, and later takes over the Calder Empire, stepping into the shoes of his formidable father.

Fifteen years later, the old lovers meet again. They have little in common…except a son. Will Maggie forgive Chase for what was done to her family? Is Chase still interested in Maggie? Will young Ty Calder be able to bring his estranged parents together? You'll have to read to find out.

For a calm, relaxing read, which has enough twists to keep it interesting, this book is a good choice. The dialogues near the climactic points seemed a little preachy to me, though…or maybe I've seen just one hindi soap too many (research! Honest!). Overall, it's definitely worth a read.

This book was given to my friend who scratched off the price tag, so I'm not sure how much it costs here, but the jacket says £6.99, so if you're planning to get this through Amazon, that's probably how much it'll cost you.

By Sabrina F Ahmad


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