44th Book of 2020
There is something about anthologies that just doesn’t allow me to go towards it but I picked the book “Tales from the Himalayas” because of the word “Himalayas” in its title. It has been a long time since I wish to go to the mountain and explore the meaning of life like several yogis. This book is a collection of 17 short stories written by an award-winning authoress- Priyanka Pradhan in around 157 pages. To start with, I must say, Rupa Publications have surprised me with little elements that they have added to make this book look special. The title and first initial of all the chapters are represented in red font with attractive styling. Similarly, all the chapters have an artwork associated with it which gives power to your imagination.
Talking about the stories, they are of the kind which generally grandparents tell it to their grandchildren while sitting alone. And that is the reason, in every story, you will somewhere find the magic of Ruskin Bond or Sudha Murthy or Rudyard Kipling. The order in which the stories are arranged is done very wittingly as you will find the stories getting better with each of them with few exceptions. The stories are based in the mountains and some of them really make you feel as if you are there itself and enjoying the aesthetics of the location yourself. Even when the stories are sweet and simple, they are able to resonate with you and make you enjoy them.
As I started this review with, the stories are based in Himalayas hence there are chapters which specifically talks about factors such as fierce Himalayan predators, poisonous snakes, scorpion and even the hostile tribes in Tibet. Author also mentions the famous “Chipko” movement in a story which was initiated by Gaura Devi in the village of Reni in Garhwal, Uttarakhand in 1974. In the latter part of the book, in one of the stories, author throws a light on Choliya dancers about whom I wasn’t aware before reading this book. Similarly, there are many such elements which are covered somewhere here and there in most of the stories.
Talking specifically about few chapters, “The Snow Leopard” tells us how animals also gives back the kindness if we are kind to them. The “Mischievous Teeth” chapter is very funny and I really enjoyed reading it. The climax of it was such a surprise. “The Villain” is an eye-opener for few of us as it speaks about how body-shaming affects a school girl but the way author took it towards positive ending is commendable. “The Biggest Gift” is also a very inspirational chapter where author talks about greed along with ensuring that the culture of wearing “Nath” in the Himalayas also goes together with it. Finally, the chapter “A Night in the Dark Forest” talks about my favorite topic i.e. meditation and its power. My favourite chapter has been “Pilgrimage” which describes how a traveling experience can teach us things from small incidents which can shape our mindset and lifestyle.
Now, talking about the drawbacks, from the title of the book, I had expected stories on people who go to Himalayas and get fascinated by its beauty and spiritual aspect of it but this is more about the locale already residing up there. Hence, in few chapters, you will find few chapters which are just normal short stories which has almost nothing to do with Himalayas. I felt mainly why Himalayas is a fascinating topic for us is because of the yogis and power that gets developed there but except one chapter, none of them talks about it. Lastly, all the stories are predictable which didn’t go well with me.
Other than the above points, this book will be loved by all- children and adults as there are points with which everyone can relate with. I give this book a fine attempt 3.5 stars out of 5.