Ruchi Shevade
DANCE, NANI, DANCE; STORIES OF GRANDMOTHERS AND GRANDFATHERS by Edited with an introduction by Bulbul Sharma. Foreword by Ruskin Bond Talking Cub, An Imprint of Speaking Tigers, 2023, 232 pp., INR 399.00
, volume , No November 2023, volume 47, No 11

The title caught my eye! So did the theme of the book when I read the blurb. Excitedly, I started the book. Written for fluent readers and young adolescents this has imagined stories and real-life events, brought to us by 15 authors, all carrying their own charm of storytelling. There are stories capturing many moods; of adventure, quirks, pranks, wit. There are also a couple of stories on grief and loss, of losing one’s grandparents.
Having grown up in a family with dada, dadi and nani, the theme felt close to my heart. As I started reading, a parallel chain of thoughts also attempted to recall if I knew any interesting anecdotes of my own grandparents. (For those curious, I did remember two of the funniest of them all.)
As much excited I was to read it, just as much hesitant was I to write about it; for I couldn’t figure, for days, what went wrong. But, as I read further, I found myself less and less intrigued and involved. As much as I wanted to enjoy the stories, there was an involuntary aloofness at times, gradually turning into disinterest with the book.
As I am set to write the review, I seem to have reached an impasse. On one hand, it feels unfair to entirely rely on an intense inner response, coming, not out of faults of writing, pushing me to be slightly objective. While, on the other hand, a part of me seems quite clear, straightforward and blunt, focusing on my own experience with the book. (As I am about to type, there seems to be a winner!)
I must say that the way characters have been portrayed, and the style of narration in Dance, Nani… is quite engrossing. It really stayed with me. One that I found most delightful was, ‘Traveling with Detective Dida’ by Bulbul Sharma, ‘A Photograph’ by Ruskin Bond and ‘Dadu and Jack’ by Swapna Dutta. I still feel like giggling over them. I dare you all to hold back your laugh after reading Bijal Vaccharajani’s ‘My Grandma Hoards Stuff’. (Hahahaha!! I certainly can’t). It reminded me of Mariko Shinju’s Mottainai Grandma.
Another couple of stories that touched me were ‘Where the Peacocks Dance’ by Adithi Rao and ‘Talking to Ants’ by Ashok Banker. Aahh!! What a beautiful way of penning down two rich, heartwarming and difficult life experiences, fictional(!?). So, can be rightly said about ‘When Granny Died’ by Jerry Pinto.
I have a short list of books, narrating the stories woven around grandparents and their grandchildren; varying themes, varying styles. With these stories from Dance, Nani… I now have some more valuable additions to the list.
Sigh!!! An urge to be honest with you all is pulling me to go back to an unpleasant chain of thoughts and confess it. Yes, that ‘other’ part of experience, that I had while reading this very book.
As much as I found some of the stories quite lovely and intriguing, my first read of this book was still filled with an inexplicable disappointment. Upon much musing, I realized that I didn’t find some of the stories fresh, as imaginative, as warm, as inviting. At times some of them even appeared a bit spurious. It’s difficult to explain, but it was strongly sensed.
Initially, I got the impression that all the stories in the book were out of real experiences. Some of them indeed were. But as I turned the pages, I felt a sense of disappointment to see fictitious ones, majorly present throughout the book. And that was another put off. I am sure many of us would have a range of anecdotes and memories to recall, if only one is to compile the stories from real life. It would have been much more interesting (for me) to read.
Some of the stories appeared to be written for children, who are offered a life protected by a bubble. There’s just enough pinch of adventure, of imagination and of emotions, enough to take a toe-dip. In my case, perhaps the yearn for deep-dive took over.
All said, I am quite curious to hear from others, what their favourites (and the ones put in ‘other’ category) would be, from Dance, Nani, Dance!