Since the inception of Literary Sojourn, it has remained my journey in the literary world and I do not foresee that to be getting changed anytime soon. However, honouring one request by Katha, Literary Sojourn is proudly hosting three guest book reviews of these wonderful Katha books.
Title : The Friday Fair
Author : Rabindranath Tagore
Illustrator : Debasmita Dasgupta
Translators : Himanjali Shankar, Geeta Dharmarajan
ISBN : 978-98-82454-10-6
Reviewer : Mouli Banerjee
Katha’s new ‘Tantalising Tagore’ series is a delightful collection of five of famous children’s poems by the Bengali writer, bringing to light a spritely world of colours and life. The collection consists of five translations: The Friday Fair, The Champa Flower, The Astronomer, The Little Big Man and Clouds and Waves. Himanjali Shankar and Geeta Dharmarajan’s translation of Tagore’s poem ‘Haat’, The Friday Fair is a delightful adaptation of the original story, which famously portrays each and every minute activity at the weekly village market.
Tagore’s poem presents a word picture of a busy weekly market on the banks of Padma, in the village of Bakshiganj. It is a kaleidoscopic vision of all the frenetic events that take place in the village on that day. H. Shankar and G. Dharmarajan’s translation is refined, as it retains the flavour of the original, while at the same time making the whole experience available through the imaginary world of children in metropolitan cities, who may not be familiar with the village atmosphere.
The illustrations by Debasmita Dasgupta amplify the colour and vibrancy of the story. They are based on traditional motifs and strokes but represent a modern version of the weekly village market. This is visible in the attire of the people depicted, which are very different from what Tagore’s villages would have looked like. The illustration seamlessly merges into the narrative to provide the children with a unique artistic experience.
The original poem by Tagore, a part of his collection for children, Sahaj Path or Simple Lessons, is a tightly rhymed piece. In this translation, the original Bengali rhyme scheme gives way to a sense of rhythm and musicality. The structure of the book, with each line depicting a different scene placed on a separate page with a related illustration, offers an impression of slideshow, shifting through scenes and people and thus creating a collage of human lives from various backgrounds. There are children playing, girls from the village coming to trade hay, men and women selling vegetables, sweets, jaggery, handicrafts, blankets and even cheap umbrellas from the city! It successfully evokes a feeling of activity and community interaction at the marketplace. The Friday Fair is thoughtfully structured so to include, along with a brief but instructive annexe on Tagore, the original Bangla poem in its script and in a Roman transcription. This highlights Katha’s concern for projects of translation, which culminates here in a subtle way to initiate children to this other art.
Young readers can see the rhyme scheme of the original and contrast it with the translated version. Thus, The Friday Fair is a colourful, exciting book that takes its readers on a journey through colourful cultures and life stories.