Apr 222022
Review: Curious Tales From The Desert
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Title: Curious Tales From The Desert

Authors: Shaguna Gahilote and Prarthana Gahilote

Illustrator: Jit Chowdhury

Publisher: Puffin Books (Penguin Random House India)

Type: Paperback

Pages: 224

Age group: 9 years+ (very enjoyable for adults as well)

Shaguna Gahilote and Prarthana Gahilote are accomplished storytellers, with many a folk tale under their belt. Their first book, was set in the Himalayas, while this time, we travel across the sands of time, encountering many a desert storm with them. 

This book takes the reader through the wild jungles and deserts of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and even Sindh and Multan. These grandmother’s tales of wisdom and folklore would never be complete without a catchy, earthy, ‘Multany’ story. Because before independence, a lot of action was seen in distant towns like Multan (Pakistan). [Fun fact: Asha’s family is originally from Multan!]

In the stories, gold, ivory, silver are traded for saffron and precious spices, and we learn that even growing cucumbers can fetch a decent profit. 

From a magical sparrow to a tree full of treasures to witches and wise old men, the book spans kingdoms, centuries, and hardships. Not only is the desert a hard taskmaster, you have to use all your wit and courage to outsmart robbers, dishonest shopkeepers and even loan sharks. 

What is beautiful about such grandma tales is the stark honesty and learnings for a lifetime. These 16 folk tales make you experience time travel across history, geography and culture of these four regions. Since there were no distractions in the good old days; you’ll find that the protagonists led a colorful life with flights of fancy, through strange encounters and even stranger circumstances. The Thar desert serves as a ‘fertile’ backdrop.

While interesting characters, animals and birds cast a spell in these tales, the woman of the house commands the upper hand. In one memorable stories titled, The Wise Wife, the lady of the house solves a series of riddles, helping her weary husband trace his creditors. 

The house in the mouth is mine
The house in the fragrance is mine
The house in the house is mine…

(Try solving this riddle or find the answer in the pages of this endearing book!) 

The illustrations by Jit Chowdhury are as magical as the stories themselves. 

Fables live forever. In our hearts and minds. Here’s hoping we all carry this legacy of earthy wisdom forward.

As the authors say in the introduction, stories are forever disappearing. It’s up to us to ensure they don’t! 

Gulzar Saab sums up the book beautifully in a single line:

A very interesting Cosmos of time it is.

~ Gulzar, in the foreword of the book

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