Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reviewing Aajoba

The lovely Natasha has sent us a lovely review of Aajoba My Grandfather...

My Dadi was called Beeji. She had one lung only, she had battled with and survived TB. She cooked food on a kerosene stove in Malerkotla, a village in Punjab.

My Nana was an adventurer. He went to Berlin to a car show and returned from there by road, driving his new Mercedes Benz.

Reading Aajoba will bring alive the grandchild in you. It did for me. I would read two pages of memories reconstructed by Taruja Parande and then construct 5 pages of my own. Stories of one grandparent would come in waves and then make way for another one.

Taruja Parande’s narration is crisp and breezy, yet never predictable. Her images tell stories all by themselves. Glucose biscuits wait in a glass jar, a diary page reveals meticulously written household accounts . Some visuals have such an everyday quality to them and yet others are deeply personal. I turn a page from Aaji and Aajoba posing in front of the Taj Mahal and find two cloth bags photographed on adjacent pages, one stitched from Aaji’s block-printed saree and the other from Aajoba’s trousers.

On another page are various stages of buttered toast, the textures and shades so delicate, so crunchy. Taruja’s Aajoba trimmed his toast with a pair of scissors. This took me straight to my own sepia flashback. My Beeji teaching me to slice cucumber. ‘Cut it so thin that you can see the knife slide under the cucumber slice. But make sure the circle is whole.’ Now I repeat the anecdote as my daughter watches me cut salad.

As a children’s book, Aajoba has the rare quality of being even more appealing for the adult reader. The narrator’s voice has the clarity of a grandchild’s admiration, her images the sophistication of a fine artist. Together these qualities stir memories, make one smile and evoke an inner world that can never be forgotten.

Childhood is a box of things. Odds and ends, a bit of thread. Coins, buttons, songs and bus-stops. Flowers collected, insects chased. Sounds that lingered, stories that fascinated us. Taruja’s tribute to her Aajoba is that box of things.

At one point the narrator asks the reader to flip the pages of the book a couple of times. I heard the flapping of pigeon wings, engulfing me not only with scenes, but also distant sounds of a time gone past.
Tulika Publishers have produced a book so rich in design, detail and content that one picks it up repeatedly, to caress, both with ones heart and hands.

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