The Panchatantra is a testimony to the rich tradition of the oral story telling culture of the subcontinent. Handed down over centuries, kids over generations have been brought up on a wide variety of tales from it, with each story underpinned by a moral message. Animal characters are central to the narrative, further enhancing the appeal of these stories to young minds.
Gulzar is an acclaimed lyricist and film director of the Hindi film industry. He is one of the rare mainstream film personalities who has contributed a considerable body of work in the form of lyrics for a number of children based films and TV programmes. The book under review are stories from the Panchatantra in verse format in his own words, as told to his young daughter, whose pet name is Bosky ( real name Meghna Gulzar, a film director in the Hindi film industry).
The collection of stories is a mix of tales from the Panchatantra. The choice of language is very simple. The translation in English reads well and retains the essence of the story, the illustrations add to the book’s appeal.
The book opens with how the Panchatantra stories came into being. It recounts how Vishnu Sarma (the author of the Panchatantra) offers to educate the three foolish sons of the king. The king is only too glad that someone has taken on the onerous task of reforming his sons. Vishnu Sarma goes about educating the three men by regaling them with stories of the world, with each story having a lesson around various aspects of law and qualities of leadership.
The stories involve the familiar themes of how greed, personal vanity, anger, haste can lead to adverse outcomes. While the moral value is a key ingredient for each story, the message is woven into the tale in a very subtle manner, thus enhancing the impact of the message that the author wants to convey.
Gulzar covers interesting stories like how the rabbit outwits the lion (Who Shall Satisfy the Lion’s Hunger?), the perils of blind imitation ( Even Imitation Needs Intelligence), how hasty decisions can hurt ( The Mongoose Pet), the Story of the Donkey Being an Ass!!!
Bharat Kidambi is an independent consultant who enjoys reading out children’s stories to his 7 year old daughter.