Middle-aged women sometime develop inexplicable crushes – witness mine for SRK. So when I got a book called Dungi Dance to review, I was thrilled. So what if the hero in question is a sheep!
The said sheep is an adventurous lass who is bored with the bovine habits of her flock. Day after day the flock does ordinary sheep things like graze, and graze, and well, graze. Dungi, however, is a tad bohemian. She likes to talk! Which really annoys the other sheep, since they know the mouth has more important things to do – like chew.
Fed up with her loquaciousness, the flock shoos her away. What happens next is, by sheep standards, quite as adventurous as taking the Chennai Express into the unknown. As Dungi sets off to newer pastures, a lungi from a line of washing blows over her head, and as she struggles to free herself, Dungi finds that she can make some pretty cool dance moves.
Soon she gets into the swing of things and dances her way back to the flock only to be met with (expectedly) startled horror – sheep do not dance!
Dungi is despondent. Will she be condemned forever to be a boring sheep? And what she doesn’t overtly say but I’m sure would have liked to say – can she ever break out of the mould? Can she shake off the traditions of the sheep and assert her individuality? Can a society ever change to accommodate new ideas?
Even as Dungi wallows in misery, a bunch of young sheep take up her cause and with their help Dungi gets the whole lot dancing to a new tune – ayyayyaa, dhum, dhum, dhum…
A few years ago, when a new wave of Indian children’s books began to be published, there was an emphatic shift away from “books with a message”. These days messages are creeping back into our books – not the a-friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed type of messages, but more like the be-sensitive-to-diversity-and-special-people or it’s-okay-to-be-different type.
Dungi Dance too abounds with themes. That it’s cool to be different and try new things. (Dungi’s moments of self-discovery occur even as she steps out of the comfort of the field in which her flock grazes day after day.) That young people (and sheep) bring new ideas that revitalize societies. And this one’s my own personal moral of the story – really, we ought to be careful of what we chuck around us. Dungi was lucky that she got entangled in a lungi, what if it were a plastic bag instead?! Huh?
The writing, if not as sophisticated and full of rhythm as say a Thakitta Tharikitta Bouncing Ball, does compress many layers in a simple story. And the drum and beat sounds are bound to be a great hit with storytellers and read-aloud-ers as well as young children between the ages of three and five.
Kavita Singh Kale’s illustrations give a delightful Shaun-the-sheep-esque character to both the flock as well as Dungi. Dungi’s large expressive eyes are really quite heartwarming.
To sum up, a fun idea, and a good book.
By Lubaina Bandukwala
Author: Bhavna Jain Bhuta
Illustrator: Kavita Singh Kale
Tulika Publishers, 2015
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book