Ananya S Guha

Bulbuli’s Bamboo
Mita Bordoloi (story), Proiti Roy (pictures)
Tulika Publishers, 2013
24 pp, INR 135
Paperback Children’s Literature/English

Bulbuli’s Bamboo is a delightful account of a child’s world cradled in a bamboo world. The images of a bamboo bed, bamboo bench, bamboo soup, bamboo mat, bamboo grove, bamboo ladder, bamboo gate, bamboo fence, bamboo bridge, etc. are juxtaposed to communicate an almost ethereal world of fable, at the same time which is real – the world of bamboos.

Bulbuli, the central character in this narrative, lives in a bamboo house next to a bamboo grove. There are bamboo trees near her house. The prismatic world of a child seen through a world of bamboos which is both material and immaterial is the central force in the narrative. The story written in verse form has the element of prosody where there is an admixture of the real and the fantastic. These two elements converge to communicate a world which consists of the reality of bamboos from nature to utilitarian uses such as the bamboo mat, the bamboo ladder and the bamboo bed. As the verse narrative progresses, more information about bamboo in the referential world of bamboos is given. Thus, the narrative in verse form is a progressive one where, with each progression, one has to remember what is said in the past lines. This makes the narrative exciting and possible for a child to memorise the lines and recite them.

Let us take an example from the beginning of the story:

Bulbuli sleeps on a bamboo bed.

Bulbuli wakes up
and sits on a bamboo bench
next to her bamboo bed.

Bulbuli drinks hot soup
made with tender bamboo shoots
sitting on the bamboo bench
next to her bamboo bed.

The story progresses in circles but the focus is very clear: the bamboo world of Bulbuli and its ubiquity. That is how the author creates a dense narrative of a world which is real yet told in a fictive manner to grab the attention of a child. The centrality of Bulbuli’s world is a situation where one not only lives in a world of bamboos but where one gets the maximum benefit out of it in terms of sleeping, eating, drinking and even dreaming. Everything is seen from a child’s perspective so that another child reading it will not only be curious to learn about bamboos but will identify himself/herself with two worlds – one real and the other surreal. The very fact that there is a bamboo grove nearby connected with a bamboo bridge leading to the house reveals the connection of nature with habitat. The illustrations in the book etched vividly create more speculation about such a world, a green, green world. Yet this connection is not sparse, it is very human and real. The repitition of images only adds to the force of both poetry and narrative in the story. The story is at once real and fabulous.

The story begins with Bulbuli waking up to her bamboo world, to run bamboo errands or bamboo walks, and ends with Bulbuli sleeping and then dreaming in her bamboo world. The story is ostensibly set in Kaziranga where the author grew up. It is a deeply sensory and articulated world of humdrum existence of day-to-day living. At the end of the narrative there is some information on bamboo: that it is a grass, that it is healthy and tasty, and that one can make chairs and tables out of it! Thus, it is also a livelihood and the world of living, moving, dreaming and sleeping is brilliantly expressed in this children’s story.

Such books should be prescribed for children in schools to encounter the world of reality, fantasy and dreams in a creative and engaging manner. The illustrations and the very texture of the book are beautifully done. The book is a figurative means not only to childhood but also to adulthood. The book appeals to the senses as all creative writing must.

Ananya S. Guha lives in Shillong, Meghalaya. He has four collections of poetry in English and his poems have been published in journals in India and abroad.

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