January 20, 2021

#Tribhanga - a film review

Renuka Shahane’s directorial film ‘Tribhanga’ is a film that spans across three generations, with a conflicted mother-daughter relationship at its core and an insight into people and their coping mechanisms. 

The story line: 

Nayan Joshi is a talented writer trapped between domestic responsibilities and her true calling. And somewhere down the line has to choose between the two. Being the free spirit that she is, she chooses to go with her dreams, uprooting the lives of her two children, Anu and Ravi, who she takes along with her. 

Anu and Ravi, however, can never forgive her for the consequences of her decisions, for which they believe they had to pay the price.

Until there is a confrontation in the most unfortunate circumstances...

The cast/performance: 

In the movie, there is a dialogue where Anuradha Apte talks about her relationship with the two women in her life, where she describes her mother, daughter, and herself with the help of three poses in traditional dance form —-Abhanga, Samabhanga, and Tribhanga respectively. 

‘Abhang’ (slightly off-centre) — Tanvi Azmi plays the role of a genius writer who, like most geniuses, is not spared of idiosyncrasies. She is cerebral but sometimes fails to see what is in front of her. She hates monotony. Azmi has played her part to perfection with her ageing face revealing just the right amount of regret and pride. 

‘Samabhang’ (well balanced) - played by Mithila Palkar who is Anuradha’s seemingly balanced daughter ‘Masha’. I felt her performance was forced in parts. But that could also be because she hardly had any lines to spout. She could have done better. 

However, the entire responsibility of the film lies on, you guessed it, ‘Tribhanga’ (a standing body position,in which the body is bent at three points, namely the knees, the hips, and the shoulders-neck, each part pointing in different directions) Kajol’s shoulders and she handles it like a boss! She plays a loud, swearing, cussing, perennially annoyed, extremely forthright, and super snarky character, a performance that seems to come to her so easily that we cannot help but love her for it. She is clearly the star of this show. 

The other motley of characters include a loyalist brother who has embraced spirituality, an estranged father with a failing memory, and an accepting lover whose patience is tested at every step.

It is a pleasure to watch Kanwaljeet on screen after all this time. I recall watching his TV series ‘Saans ’ as a child and instantly warming up to his puppy dog eyes and kind expression (that too when he was portraying a philandering spouse). 

This film shows him in a different light though. The brief snatches of onscreen chemistry between him and Azmi are reminiscent of their ‘Family no 1’ days, and I couldn’t help wishing he’d appear in more frames. 

Kunaal Roy Kapur has an onscreen presence that grows on you, and although he has very few lines as well, his expressions and body language say it all. The man definitely has potential. 

The takeaway:

With a touching story line and cast in tow, Tribhanga dives into the nuances of human relationship that until now had barely been explored. We have all witnessed the constrained father-son chemistry of a KKKG (‘Kabhie khushi  kabhie gham’) or YJHD (‘Ye jawaani hai  deewani’) but this is the first when it comes to depicting the convoluted silence of a mother-daughter bond...an underrated bond that is so easily take for granted. 

‘Tribhanga’ also passes on alert intent message on forgiveness. On forgiving ourselves, on forgiving our parents. On accepting that they are just as human as we are. And so just as flawed. 

The mistakes made by Nayan and then by Anu reveal that ‘perfect’ parenting can never exist. No matter how you raise your child, there is always space for complaint. 

Anu’s character, although slightly askew, brings to the fore a shade of feminism that is much needed in India. It displays unabashedly a vibe that is a contradiction, a bold contrast to the dutiful daughter, the subservient wife, the doting mother cutouts that society expects us to fit in all the time. 

It tells us it is okay to speak up, to speak loud, and speak for ourselves, because nobody else is going to do that for us. Giving this so-called ‘idealistic’ society the middle finger salute, this movie challenges us to accept the ‘tedhi, medhi, crazy’ in every woman, in every mother, in every daughter. And the ‘Tribhanga’ that comes along with them.

I rate this movie a 4 out of 5.

January 05, 2021

#WorldBrailleDay: a collective insight

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” - Hellen Keller. 

A sighted person may not always understand the perils of those who are not as lucky and may often tend to take his gift for granted. The sightless, on the other hand, have to fight their own hurdles and face their own challenges. To add insult to injury the society is not always supportive, making it rather difficult for a differently abled person to live a productive life. 

In 1809, Louis Braille, a French educator, who had himself lost his eyesight in a childhood accident, devised a tactile reading and writing system. This system consisted of raised dots and was sadly accepted and taught in schools in the U.S only by 1916 by which time Louis was dead. Decades later, in November 2018, the UN chose the fourth of January  to be commemorated as #WorldBrailleDay in his memory in order to increase awareness and sensitivity among people world over.

Over time, advances in science and technology has led to constant improvisations of techniques and ideas of innovation. We now have audio books, Google assistants, and technologically driven lifestyle aids that are voice sensitive. However, one cannot undermine the role that Braille played in lighting the flame of hope and passing on the baton for an equal world. 

So here is a list of Braille friendly endeavours that are touching hearts and paving ways towards an inclusive society. 

In India

  • ITC Savlon along with NAB (National Association for the Blind) initiated a design change for its antiseptic liquid pack and made it available to several NAB centres, select blind schools and educative workshops. 

  • Taco Bell Mumbai, in two of its outlets, one at Rcity, Ghatkopar and the other at Viviana Mall, Thane, set an example by introducing the first Braille Menu for blind consumers. The menu was/is in print as well as in Braille-and audio-enabled in order to be accessible to all. A very sensitive and all-inclusive gesture.

  • Nawabs Wajid Ali Shah Zoological gardens in Lucknow has Braille educational boards for the convenience of visually impaired visitors. This is done in order to promote inclusivity, spread awareness, education, and conservation of the wild life and ecosystem among all alike, abled and differently abled individuals. 

Inspiration from the rest of the world: 

  • Argentina has Tiflolibros and digital libraries started by the WIPPO (world intellectual properties protection organisation). These help in making a vast collection of books and reading material accessible to the visually impaired. 

  • L’Occitane, a French beauty company, has done a fantastic job in successfully incorporating Braille into its packaging of almost 70% of its products. 
  • There are several other more economical and simpler ways to improve packaging and make it all inclusive. Square packaging instead of round bottles when it comes to bath products will ensure the product won't roll off and will be in easy reach even if it slips. A tactile code system like a raised strip on a shampoo bottle and dot on conditioner will make it easy for the visually impaired to identify. These have been employed in other countries and should be considered in India as well. 
  • Medical prescriptions can get real tedious to follow if one is visually impaired, especially when it comes to following the instructions written in tiny print on the cover of medicine bottles. So the U.S has come up with a perfect solution to the problem. CVS pharmacy, in the United States, has collaborated with the American Council for the Blind and created a new and particularly helpful feature on the CVS Pharmacy phone app, known as the SpokenRx. SpokenRx is an in-app prescription reader and is specially designed to read out all the information on prescription bottles, thus making it a lot more convenient for those unable to read the tiny font themselves. CVS pharmacy plans to equip all pharmacies in the U.S with this feature by 2021 end.
We can only hope India will work towards taking similar steps. Living with dignity is a basic human right and it is our duty as people living in the society to promote an all-inclusive behavior to each and every one of its members. To ensure equal rights to education, freedom of expression and financial safety to all its members. Compared to the West, India still has a long way to go. But hope springs eternal. And if a general sense of humanity persists, we will get there...

Speaking of which, one voluntary organisation that deserves to be mentioned for its commendable efforts to spreading hope and positivity is We4You. I came across their page on Facebook a couple of years ago and volunteered to donate my voice for their audio books...a feature that promises to help visually impaired children to visualize the world in a better way. To spark their power of imagination. To impart education through academic textbooks. To engage and inspire with story telling. I hope my recordings were able to do justice. 
We4You helps visually impaired children to find their footing in the world, through audio books, vocational training, and education. They encourage, empower, hone skills, provide accessible information, and employment assistance. 
Do check out their page and become a volunteer if you wish. We need to support such efforts in whichever way we can.

Ending here on a pensive note, with a poignant quote for you to reflect upon...

"There is no better way to thank God for your sight than by giving a helping hand to someone in the dark."  ~ Helen Keller

January 01, 2021

#GlobalFamilyDay: it's all in the family!

Today, I was reminded of an ad that I had come across a long time ago, on the power of eating together...

...in which all the residents of a building who are otherwise barely acquainted set table and dine together and get to know each other better...an act of bonding in a disconnected world. 

And that brings me smoothly to #Global FamilyDay, a day that is observed mainly in the U.S on the first of January of every year.  A feeling of unity that needs to be celebrated by everyone around the world. 

Now imagine the residents of the building to be inhabitants of the world instead; people of different religions, different nationalities. Now what if we all decided to sit down and eat together, share a meal, and get to know each other along the way. 

It would probably take us this kind of interaction to realise a much neglected truth...we as people around the world,  with all our differences in colour, age, sex, upbringing, culture, customs, traditions, habit, political affiliations, are not that different after all.

Speaking of which, 2020, in its own super-sadistic way, taught us exactly that. It made us realise how similar we all are, mainly in our responses to an unseen threat or danger that we have little role in causing. 

When a crisis of such global proportion, like Covid ;han strikes, everybody from the richest man in the most powerful country to the poorest man in the country of least power becomes vulnerable. 

The past year taught us how alike we are in our reactions, to our fears, and how in times like these, the entire human race should forget all their differences and stand up for each other. Have each other’s back. 

Global family day was traditionally celebrated by rising a bell or beating a drum on the first day of the year...a loud resounding promise to be there for each other. 

However, down the ages, this has been customised. This year especially, maintaining safety precautions is imperative in the midst of this pandemic. 

But given the situation, here are three ways we can all observe WorldFamilyDay in 2021 and feel like a part of this colossal unit of trust and togetherness. Let’s all try and make that positive dent in the world.

Because no matter how much the circumstances limit us, humanity should always come first! 

Here are five ways to celebrate the vibe of #GlobalFamilyDay in 2021: 

  • Start small. Call that neighbour to ask him how he is doing. Connect with one friend you haven’t been in touch with. 
  • Start at home. Cook a special meal for your own family.
  • Make a small donation to trusted funds or contribute to your favorite NGO. 
  • Change your attitude - promise to practice tolerance and mutual respect. Try not to judge people even if you don’t know them...especially if you don’t know them. 
  • Last but not least, spread social positivity - Social networks are increasingly being abused for all the wrong reasons. Stop making the hate go viral. All arguments need not be fueled. It’s best to know when to argue and whom to ignore. It just helps keep the peace maintained. Don’t hold on to the resentment though. Every family has a few cracked eggs anyway. It takes all kinds to make this world. 

The world is at its vulnerable best right now and literally nobody wants to feel alone. So take that step. Extend that hand. Call up one friend everyday. Celebrate connections. Small gestures like these make a positive impact, no matter how tiny or far fetched they may seem.

And although we are still engaging virtually at the moment, know that the bonds we are forming are real. 

So if you are reading this, take this as a sign from the universe. Not just for today but for all the coming days. Lets pledge to encourage love and peace the best way we can. 

Because in times of crisis, it is our family we turn to. 

Because the world is one big family and someone somewhere is always there for you. So you be there for someone too. 

Because it’s true we don’t need one particular day to start making this difference. But ‘now’ is always a good time. 

So here’s wishing my extended global family a very happy, safe, and fulfilling 2021. 

May our ‘now’ be forever blessed! 

October 30, 2020

Book review: 'Anxious people' by Fredrik Backman

Title: "Anxious People"

Author: Fredrik Backman

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 2020)

Available in :Paperback and Kindle format

This is a story about 'idiots', relatable to the core because each one of us at some point in life has been one.

It is a story about how we adults are actually children in disguise, unaware of where we are going, forced to accept responsibilities we are not always ready for, but trying to fulfil them to the best of our abilities anyway.

It is a story about a bank robbery gone wrong, about an ensuing hostage drama, and a bunch of strangers each with their own eccentricities, finding a common thread.

Narrated in a light and riveting style, Fredrik Backman frequently employs the ‘Rashomon effect’. It alternates between sarcastic but humorous interviews with the hostages and a tongue in cheek account of what ‘actually’ happened.

A few pages down, and you are almost tempted into believing it is a comedy (of errors), until you read on and discover the profundity of interwoven wisdom.

‘Anxious people’, I’d love to classify, as a community read. It is self-help disguised in a refreshingly non-patronising manner...something you’d want to pick especially during a pandemic like the one we are going through, when empathy is the need of the hour.

However, there were a few instances in the book that felt larger than life. What I didn’t particularly enjoy is that Backman has taken care to explain (repeatedly at times) and tie all the ends together, leaving very little to the readers imagination. While I do appreciate a well rounded-up story, I also respect authors who respect their readers intelligence and leave a few instances open ended. But then again, perhaps reconfirmation is a strategy to suit the theme (‘anxiety’) of the book.

The realization how our life can be affected by the life of strangers we may have momentarily crossed paths with, the decisions that don’t always make sense but we are forced to take for the ones we love, and last but not the least, a reminder that it is not always our fault...Backman explores these themes in this wonderfully spontaneous and witty NewYork Times Bestseller.

I rate this one 4 on 5.

October 21, 2020

Book review: 'Caste: The origins of our discontent'

Title: 'Caste: The origins of our discontent'

Author: Isabel Wilkerson

Publisher: Allen Lane (15 September 2020)

Available in: Kindle edition, audio book, hard cover, and audio CD

“The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly."

But somewhere down the line, we seem to have forgotten just that. 

Isabel Wilkerson ‘Caste...the origin of our discontent’ is a hard-hitting eye opener to all those who have allowed themselves to be blinded by the repetitive prejudiced tellings of a caste based culture. 

The book tries to break down the complexities of caste and race workings into simpler building blocks, to help us understand from where it all started. 

Written in an easy-to-understand and interesting way, the narrative is a combination of a terrifying history, a grotesque reality, and tiny reminders that hit us hard and wake us up. 

At the very outset, Isabel draws parallels between the three major caste hierarchies in the world—-the chilling, officially vanquished caste system of Nazi Germany, the shapeshifting, unspoken race divide in America, and the lingering, millennia old and more insidious caste hierarchy in India. 

Of course, the author being African American, has grown up hearing, seeing, and feeling the ramifications of a racist society in her everyday life and personal interactions and this has placed her at a vantage point while explaining to us the situation in America than that in the other two countries. 

I, however, being Indian, could easily imagine the same incidents rolling out in almost exactly the same way here in India. The only difference being, here we are divided on the basis of ‘caste’ and there on the basis of ‘race’.

“Caste is the bones. Race is the skin.”

For all those who thought the two forms (of prejudice) were different from each other, Isabel aptly puts across the correct relationship between the two. Caste, she explains, is fixed, a more rigid concept while race is more fluid. However, both are interdependent. Both have wreaked terror and continue to do so even today despite there being existing laws against the discrimination they trigger. 

If one has read Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of the caste system’, it is easy to notice how similar the discrimination faced by the Dalits in medieval India was to the horror endured by the blacks in the U.S before the American civil war. 

The Jim Crow laws, the subjugation that the non-whites suffered at the hands of the whites, the humiliation, the flogging, the slavery, the rapes have all been happening with the marginalised in India as well. Likewise with the Jews who were assigned the status ‘Untermensch’ in the period that led to the third Reich.

In the segment on the eight pillars of caste, Isabel explores various prejudices, the myths and facades that were built to keep them in place, the laws against miscegenation, endogamy, and mind numbing horrors that one cannot even imagine inflicted on human or animal. 

The subservience of the subordinate castes made me squirm with discomfort. The cruelty they were made to suffer made me gasp. The illogical hatred, the senseless narcissism, the abuse (physical and mental) by the so-called ‘higher’ castes left me infuriated. 

The gory real life stories of ‘Negro’ slaves in America, the denigration of ‘untouchables’ in India are so painfully grotesque and dehumanising that I was tempted to abandon reading midway...but then it hit me—-that is exactly the problem with our society. We often want to live in denial of that which is not palatable, no matter how real. Refusing to acknowledge the atrocities, the bias, the prejudice of caste will not make it go away. 

It is pretty much like the monster under your bed...you don’t want to look because you are too afraid you may actually find it. Only, in this case, the ‘monster’ called caste is real. 

And that is what the book felt like—-harsh, painful, but authentic. 

The narrative is interspersed with anecdotes from the author’s own personal encounters and the criticism she faces only adds to the ‘real’ voice of the book. 

"Jaat naahi ti jaat,” is a popular Marathi saying that is reflective of the nature of the caste system. 

After reading this book and realising how global this phenomenon is, I was left speechless. 

Here we are in the 21st century, a so called modern and evolved era still trying to come to terms with the idiocy of the caste system, still dealing with the assumed superiority of some groups over others that they consider inferior based on immutable factors, like colour of skin, origin of birth, and ancestry. 

We have been handed down a regressive social construct, the disasters of which have been either perpetuated or suffered by our ancestors, and instead of destroying it, we continue to treasure it, respect it, revere it...as part of our heritage. This abominable heritage of hate.

Call it ‘varna’, ‘race’,  or ‘jaati’, caste by any other name is just as evil. 

The resurgence of the caste system, maybe in less obvious, more insidious ways, has made us forget the struggle of Martin Luther King, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule. 

We have become silent witnesses of communal mobs, of Dalits being lynched, of surnames being asked, of marriages being broken, of lovers being torn apart, of temples barring access...all evidence of the resurgence. 

But we choose to stay silent. We do not act. 

A line I read in this book springs to mind...

Something Bonhoeffer once said to bystanders, 

“God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Detailing the grim and the gory is not an easy task. And a book like this must have taken a whole lot of research.  Wilkerson has done a commendable job in piecing together ‘The origin of our discontent’, with need for special mention of how in the end, she ties it all up with glimmering threads of hope. Of the non-bias of white friends who stand up for her. Of the radicalisation of the dominant caste. Of people shedding their prejudices. Of realisation. Of equality. Of acceptance.

The chapter ‘The Heart is the last frontier’ is a beautiful reminder that the world can still be beautiful. 

I end here with the concluding line of the book. A line we all need to ponder upon, long before and after reading...

“A world without caste would set everyone free.”

I urge you to read this book and draw your own conclusions. I rate it a 5 on 5. A must read!

October 13, 2020

Book review: “The family upstairs” by Lisa Jewell

This one was recommended to me by a friend who for some reason (unknown to me) thought  I’d enjoy it very much. Anyway...

It’s not like I hated the book. In fact, I did enjoy it in parts. 

The story is fast paced, the writing is crisp and easy. And it has that ‘page turner’ quality (at least in the first 3/4th of the book). The narrative is split into three different POV’s, each with a distinctive style and course.

25 year old Libby aka ‘the baby’ has just inherited a mansion in the heart of Chelsea from a family she lost as a baby. 

While researching on this surprise inheritance, there are a few other discoveries that come to light, the prime among which is that as a baby she had been found by authorities in the midst of a crime scene, gurgling away in her crib with three dead people in the house (her parents and their friend in an alleged suicide pact), and that she has two other siblings she never got to see/know growing up. 

It is these three; Libby, Henry, and Lucy around which the narrative is structured. 

Thus unravels the story of the mansion, at the centre of which lie these three families whose lives become closely intertwined in sinister ways...ways that the reader will find himself piecing together as he becomes part of the journey. A journey rife with emotional upheaval, a troubled childhood, bizarre cultic traditions, and some deep dark secrets that once breathed in the mansion, waiting for 25 years to be uncovered. 

Jewell has managed to successfully arouse and maintain the intrigue of the reader with each person’s narrative alternating between their horrifying past replete with cloistered cultic traditions and incestuous relationships, and their tumultuous present that is filled with confusion, fear, anxiety, and yet a common yearning...to meet each other, especially ‘the baby’. 

There are moments of surprise and incredulity that will leave the reader open mouthed but turning pages nevertheless.

Some instances that require suspension of disbelief include: 

A murder happening (too easily executed and concealed) in broad daylight and the cops never following up on it. 

Henry (at age 12 or 13) learning the entire expansive science of herbs and potions from Justin and then practicing it all alone with equal finesse almost felt like a retelling of ‘the sorcerers apprentice’.

Also couldn’t help feeling all the kids in the book must have been precocious, with them the little geniuses mastering sciences and culinary arts, or understanding the nuances of mature adult relationships or even plotting the almost-perfect escape and getting away with murder. 

All this, with not even as much as basic formal schooling (Couldn’t help feeling it may have been education that ruined us).

Cut to the last 1/4th of the book, and the plot starts feeling a little stodgy or probably this is because your expectations have risen by then, when suddenly the big reveal...the sibling is not the sibling (which is a good twist nonetheless). 

You devour the next few pages at break neck speed and just when you think the plot is getting sinister, PHAATT! It falls flat! 

Yes, the way the story ended left me feeling let down because by then I was rooting for pure evil, what with a cultic plot like that. Instead it gave me a happily ever after with almost negligible traces of ominousness (a major roll-eye moment).

It was as if the quota of dark psychology had outdone itself during their childhood and not wanting to creep them out anymore suddenly decided to quit the family reunion. 

Jewell leaves a lot to the readers imagination, with her touch-and-go style of cause and effect. 

Well, I do acknowledge the fact that a nice little open ending exercises the brain cells, but experimenting with these kind of open loops a tad too frequently in the story can make it seem like the author may have not known how best to end what she had started. 

To sum up, ‘The Family Upstairs’ is a racy, chilling, psychological read that includes multiple story lines, scarred lives, a lot of mystery, several murders, a deranged cult, a malevolent obsession, and a happy ending, that will leave you with some jaw drops and a whole lot of roll eye moments.

I rate it 3 out of 5 

June 16, 2020

5 ways we can still fix a broken world

We are all aware of what is happening in the world today. And I can say without doubt, we are not too proud of it.

After much contemplation, cribbing, and ranting, I have finally come to accept that the answer to all our troubles does not lie in looking back at the past and trying to correct it. (Because it may be too late to change the narrative of our lives, too much damage has been done for that already. )

Instead, it lies in ensuring that our mistakes aren’t repeated. That out faulty mentality and biases do not form part of the legacy that we are handing over to our children. That they turn out better than we turned out to be.

Here are five ways we can help the children we birth/raise/know grow up into better human beings: 

1) Build their trust: When a child smiles at you, smile back. No matter how your day is going. Maybe you are running late for work, or have missed the bus, or your boss is mad at you for submitting a work file too late. Maybe you have flunked a test, or have just broken up with the love of your life. But if a child smiles at you, smile. Children are innocent and often see the world as a compassionate place where what you give is what you get. Do not let them down. Let them believe that kindness exists. Do not shatter their expectations. Let them grow up knowing that the easiest way to make a friend is to smile. 

2) Introduce them to the magic of reading: Read out a story to a child, preferably one every week, with full animated gestures et al give flight to his imagination. Introduce him to the art of reading and story telling. You can read out to an adult too if you like. You’d be surprised how much they enjoy it.

3) Teach them the importance of art - Contribute to the world of art. Even the smallest of contributions make a huge difference—-Spend time sketching. Do a doodle. Paint a picture. Write a poem. Make your own music. Spin a story. Even if you don’t have an audience, create. For yourself. And for your kid who is constantly watching and emulating you. 

4) Break a taboo - this is a social change you can start at home. We have age old customs around everything. Replace them with stories of feminism and gender equality. Speak to your children openly on topics of menstruation and sex. Buy them games and clothes that are gender neutral. Hand then equal responsibility when it comes to household chores. We have enough male chauvinists in our patriarchal society. Make sure you are not raising one. 

5) Tell them it is fine. That it is fine to lose a game, fail a test, or make mistakes...if it ends up teaching you something in return. Teach them it is fine to feel different from the rest of the world as long as they lend a patient ear to those who ‘feel’ different too. Teach them that the colour of your skin, the labels on your clothes, the money in your wallet, does not matter. What matters is the strength of your character the fact that we all need the same things to keep us alive; blood in our veins, air in our lungs, and compassion in our heart.

Old men can make war. But it is only children who will make history.”- Ray Meritt

Let’s ensure that the generations after us live a happier story right from the very beginning, and do not have to carry the burden of our sins.

What a wonderful little chance to rewrite history—-of course, you do not necessarily have to birth a child in order to raise it right.

The best teachers have embraced the onus of raising children...a responsibility that is sometimes tougher to handle than that of a parent.

Children are like water, taking up any colour you mix in them. A child can be encouraged with as little as an uplifting word or an act of kindness. Make sure you mix the right colours. Say the right words. Be kind and considerate in your behaviour.

Remember, the ‘future’ is constantly watching you.

June 10, 2020

Book review: ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and The Horse’

Title: The boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse.

Author: Charlie Mackesy 

Pages: 128 pages

Publisher: Ebury Press

“The boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse” is an allegorical tale, replete with flash insights on friendship, courage, life and our insecurities.

It is a simple story with invaluable lessons inscribed on every page, a story that can be read, interpreted, and understood by people of all ages. 
The story begins with a boy wandering into the wilderness, alone and confused, until he encounters a philosophical mole, a silent fox, and a magnificent horse. 

Each of the four characters represent extremely relatable human traits and behavioural patterns. The little boy, lost and full of questions, is trying to find his way back home. The wizened mole is obsessed with cake. The silent fox is jaded by the hurt he has lived in the past. And the gentle horse has downplayed his exemplary talents  in order to fit into an ordinary world. 
Together they explore the wilderness, which like life, is full of surprises-both scary and beautiful. 

Thus a symbiotic association is formed between them, ultimately resulting in an unusual but beautiful friendship.

Embellished with basic illustrations and minimalistic writing using swirly calligraphy and intermittent strokes of water colour in pen and ink drawings, Charlie Mac has brought out the beauty of the journey in a succinct yet engaging manner. 
The sketches gently push the story forward. The accompanying dialogue between the characters make you reflect on your own insecurities of fear, guilt, illness, loss, thus serving as balm to the aching soul. 
Lines like “Home isn’t always a place, isn’t it?” hit home and make you nod in agreement.

A poignant point which almost made me want to reach out and hug the author was when the boy asks the horse, “What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?”, to which the horse replies, “Help”. 

A shout-out to all people belittling, underestimating, or shying away from discussing their mental health issues.

As suggested in the above illustration, the author seems to be a believer of beauty-in-imperfections, somewhat like the Japanese culture of Wabisabi. And this only adds to the charm of his storytelling. 
If you, like me, are a fan of Bill Watterson’s ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ series, then this is one book you are sure to enjoy. 

Translated in seventeen different languages, ‘The boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse’ is worth the space in your collection and your heart...to hand and hold, to treasure and cherish, and to return to every now and then, especially in times of uncertainty and strife. 

Seems like the apt read for now,  isn’t it?  

I rate it: 5 out of 5

You can buy it here