On 12th September I retraced the steps to India Habitat Centre with my students from class VI. The book chosen for discussion had children waiting in anticipation. The title caught their attention soon. The children were eagerly looking forward to the session.
This session saw Professor Chaman Nahal, a renowned author discussing his trilogy of books. Very rarely does one come across a litterateur who devotes his creative power to writing for children. It is indeed creditable on the part of Chaman Nahal, a reputed writer, to have come up with the Akela trilogy—Akela and the Blue Monster, Akela and the Asian Tsunami and Akela and the UFOs—for young readers. The trilogy exudes freshness and an aroma worth any literary work meant for children.
These three books are a young boy called Akela’s adventures displaying the writer’s deep knowledge of science, technology and Indian mythology. One marvels at Chaman Nahal’s vast knowledge of Indian mythology, deep waters, the tremors therein, and the Mars et al.
The books discussed in the session were Akela and the blue monster, and Akela and the Asian Tsunami. The theme revolves around Akela, a boy from Delhi Public School. He comes in contact with Rishi Baba from Rishikesh who is a pastmaster in magic and celestial control. Through his spiritual powers he comes to know that the Yamraj who rules the Blue Way Galaxy is bent upon destroying the Milky Way Galaxy and impure the Ganges just before the Maha Kumbh in Hardwar. For this, Satan deputes his son Yamakal. Rishi Baba trains Akela (his son in the previous birth) and the latter completes the mission assigned to him.
With superb dexterity, the novelist combines mythology with modern science and weaves a very convincing as well as a fascinating fable that keeps the reader’s interest alive till the end and arouses curiosity at every step to know what next is in store. Equally worth mentioning is the narrative power of the author who is at his descriptive best while describing the two heads of Yamakal, the son of Yamraj, “Small when it comes out, no bigger than King Georges’ head of the old rupee coin.`85”
Equally graphic is the description of Yamkal’s efforts to come out of the trolley. The ease with which mythology and recent history are woven together displays Nahal’s masterly skill in handling the juxtaposed phases of life. For example, Akela’s curiosity to know about dark-skinned persons from Bastar attending to patients in a hospital is dealt with very artistically. “Where was Bastar?” “A district in Chattisgarh.” “Where was Chattisgarh?” “A new state, next to Orissa?”
Another beauty of the piece in hand is that there is no loose string in the web. Even the episode of a small girl washing clothes in the river is well connected with the main story. Written in a lucid yet simple prose, words flow unhindered, adding to its appeal.
There is a rich sprinkling of humour, too. The marriage scene of Akela’s cousin sends us into giggles. He forces the bandmen wearing greasy uniform run away. The bridegroom riding a family Ford car as mare and the ladies singing songs before it and weaving garlands around its neck is quite amusing.
First he read some passages from the book which had the children hooked on to every word he read. They were amused and intrigued by what they heard. This was followed by a question answer round wherein the children asked him several questions about how he got to writing books, how he came up with the idea of Akela trilogy and so on…When the session ended the children were asking for more.
Every child will love to have this novel on his shelf and read it not once but repeatedly. Undoubtedly, it is a lovable addition to children’s literature. It is a fine example of the writer’s masterly narrative skill that will impart the piece in hand a special niche in this genre.