Pavithra Srinivasan
VANAMALA AND THE CEPHALOPOD by Shalini Srinivasan Duckbill Books, Chennai, 2014, 186 pp., 225
November 2014, volume 38, No 11

Author Shalini Srinivasan certainly has a weird and wonderful imagination. It’s almost as though mere words cannot do justice to the way her thoughts spiral out, creating bizarre characters and new worlds, fabulous realms and fables that might rival the ones found in our own Upanishads. In her capable hands, tales of adventures simply spring out, wreathed in joy and eager to fill out the whole world. Your only worry is that there are simply too many things to take hold of, examine, and enjoy.

But first things first, and it’s certainly intriguing, the beginning of this story: ‘Dear Vanamala’, begins a mysterious note to our young protagonist, Vanamala Viswanathan, who lives in Basavakere. ‘I have taken your sister and the boopy. Yours sincerely, The Cephalopod.’ Not unnaturally, this little note, found in the trough of a local shop’s backroom startles her—especially as she really did write up a notice to sell her annoying sister Pingu, aka Padmaja. Despite all their tiffs, Vanamala does love her sister—and is feeling more than a little guilty about it (which gets worse when she’s labeled ‘Sister-seller’) and sets off on a long and interesting journey to find Pingu—except that getting her back isn’t quite so simple.

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