REAL NEIGHBOURS – THE FIFTH LANE

REAL NEIGHBOURS – THE FIFTH LANE

Due to a rather unusual circumstance, I read The Fifth Lane before I read Real Neighbours and realize that this should not happen to any reader for this set of books. Perhaps, it is why publisher Jyotsna Prakashan has this slim ribbon band on the left upper corner of the book covers saying Neighbourhoods: 1 and Neighbourhoods: 2 although the narrative only moves from within an apartment complex to without in the same neighbourhood.

The stories must be read in sequence to draw out the full intensity of the narrative and its deeply powerful insight into a fast-changing suburban lifestyle that becomes known to a perky, curious character called Ketaki.

I am not able to position these books very accurately because they are not picture books, but exquisitely illustrated books that perhaps could have fitted into one illustrated novella. There are many layers to the stories; there is a rich undercurrent of life as it runs across the spectrum of age, stage, gender, region, and they all come together beautifully in both books.

I am hard-pressed to name favourites, torn as I am between the tussle of making a decision to be drawn to the timeless relationship between Grantie and Uma Kaku or between Ketaki and Monster Didi or the uniqueness of Kanha and Jiya and their special relationship. I refuse to divulge more than to say every apartment in Chandrasadan reminds you of someone you have known or will soon meet. They all wear familiar clothes, sit in comfortably known ways, live in rooms that we might all populate here and now and yet call upon us to think about a notion or an opinion or a life decision that has also been part of our experience. Ketaki is the ultimate storyteller in these wondrous books and from her emanates a verve, an individuality and an attitude that one hopes will make these books definitive reading for all young people.

It takes a writer of deep sensitivity like Madhuri Purandare to tell these stories, because the books contain a myriad of tiny tales and illustrate them, reminding us that perhaps some of the most defining qualities of an outstanding book emerge when the writer and illustrator are one, working closely together with word and image.

The struggle to fit text into blocks on some pages and the irregular balance in the layout of text across the books are some problems that the reader will have to surrender to because the narratives are worth this trouble. Occasionally, the translation jars and seems contrived, making me wonder how exquisite these stories must be in the original Marathi. If I am looking to move, The Fifth Lane and Chandrasadan seem like a lovely neighbourhood with just the right balance of old and new and a Champa tree.

By Sujata Noronha

REAL NEIGHBOURS
Author and Illustrator: Madhuri Purandare
English
40 pages
Rs 100.00
ISBN: 978-8179254134
Jyotsna Prakashan, 2015

THE FIFTH LANE
Author and Illustrator: Madhuri Purandare
English
40 pages
Rs 100.00
ISBN: 908-8179-254141
Jyotsna Prakashan, 2015
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction
Age-group: 7 +

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