Friday, June 14, 2013

Guest Book Review II : Old Man Who Would Not Listen

Title : Old Man Who Would Not Listen
Author :  Nonda Chatterjee
Illustrator: Joyita Banerjee
Publisher : Katha
ISBN : 978-93-82454-08-3
Reviewer: Mouli Banerjee

Kathas new book, Old Man Who Would Not Listen, is a delightful tale of how Old Man and his five friends bring a traffic offender to justice.

Nonda Chatterjees narrative is gripping and entertaining. Though we get ample hints from the illustrations, the text at no time specifies that Old Man and his five friends are in fact… dogs. This adds to the power of the intrigue and amplifies the mystery created by the artwork. Not without a pinch of humour, the protagonist actually behaves like a proper Old Man: he walks with his friends in the park every morning, before going and getting hot jalebis from the sweet seller, Moyra, who calls him “Babuji”. When Old Man has to cross the road, the illustration shows human footprints next to the pug marks, thus kindling the puzzlement. When the guard refuses the entrance to Old Man and his friends, Chatterjee punctuates with a touch of wit: “a heated exchange about the rights of the underdog followed.” With such smart, understated quibbling and subtle humour holding one’s attention, the book is undoubtedly a captivating read.

The art by Joyita Banerjee is innovative and original. It uses the contrast of black, white and yellow tones to create an ambience that generates intrigue. The use of silhouettes is also clever as it retains suspense, while Old Man and his friends walk through the last hours of the night, in the streets of Kolkata.

Old Man Who Would Not Listen is a tale on survival and standing up for righteousness. Old Man is stubborn, but so are his friends, in their loyalty to him. The title of the book gives a glimpse of its spirit, for Old Man “would not listen” to all the signs that told him he wasn’t allowed in the park. The story is an invitation to young readers to recognize and contribute in fighting discrimination. The “dogs not allowed” signboard outside the park is Chatterjee’s subtle allegory to evoke the larger question of exclusion of the oppressed and the underprivileged in (human) society.

The story transpires of a faith in kindness, but it also has more practical concerns: it informs readers on traffic discipline. It is a tale about friendship too, and how loyal friends fight for each other and help one another. Moreover, it invites readers not to underestimate the capabilities of the underdog, for, ultimately, Old Man and his friends, rechristened “the Super Six”, turn out to be the most effective guards of the society.
All in all, Old Man Who Would Not Listen is a fun, entertaining and, at the same time, a highly instructive book that is worth reading, and re-reading.

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