Title: The Quaint Little Village
Author: Rovi Chasie
Publisher: PenThrill Publishing House
Price: INR 250/-
Available at: Ilandlo
I loved it…
The Quaint Little Village is a lovely book. It provided a much needed breeze of freshness to a mind grappling with the harsh realities of higher academic education (just what is the deal with the post-structuralist fascination with deconstruction, for example).
Set in Khonoma and following the innocent if naïve perspective of young Tono, its protagonist, the book is unassuming in its presentation and remains true to the simple and linear form of traditional storytelling which we all know and love. And its material is, unsurprisingly, instantly recognizable. Despite being from a different community, I had been exposed to many similar or even the same stories. (Of Spirits and Ghosts)
When a Princess Came Calling is definitely inspired by Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the Thai Princess, who visited Nagaland and came to Khonoma in 2014. Through the baffled but non-judgemental eyes of little Tono, it describes the astonishing speed with which the villagers manage to resurrect a ‘dilapidated’ and ‘drab-looking shed’ for Her Royal Highness only to condemn it, after the visit, to its ‘original state, dusty, broken down and full of cinders’.
Windows to Tono’s World is heartfelt and amusing as only the boundless imagination of a child (‘A volcano of ideas erupting from your tiny head again?’ Tono’s mother exclaims at one point) can make it. The Family Picnic speaks about the clash of the old and the new and contains one of the most emphatic passages I have read.
Tono, sitting by the window, watched in fascination as the village folks pounded and cleaned their staple rice. She too would recollect and mull over the age-old beliefs and begin to winnow them, to retain the seeds and discard the chaff.
The book is, to quote Nini Lungalung, “impressive simply because it does not seek to impress.” Having been brought up in more or less the same setting as the protagonist, there are unmistakable parallels to how you and I grew up. The book is beautiful in its simplicity and deserves your readership as much as you need its message.
I am glad I got the book. Thanks to the good folks at Ilandlo from where you can order the book. The modern world seems insensitive to and incapable of accommodating our roots. This is where stories like these help us stay grounded. They aren’t items of nostalgia but the current foundations of our identity which we can scarce afford to lose.
An angry note on the typography…
Despite my love for the writing, however, the book has issues. A little more polish in terms of the flow of the stories would have greatly elevated the quality of the book. There are a quite few errors —
misuse, twice, of the word ‘literally’; improper application of the binomial system; typos — which the average reader might not notice but reflect poorly on the author/editor to perceptive readers.
However, the major problems are technical. The first is a personal complaint. I could not gloss over, pun absolutely intended, the use of glossy paper instead of bookpaper. It makes the book heavy and reflects too much light for comfortable reading. I suspect the use of glossy paper was due to the pictures printed on to some of the pages as bookpaper would be useless for graphics. Another minor nitpick is the size of the book which is extremely odd. Whatever the reasons for the decisions, the result was a less than ideal reading experience, at least for me.
Secondly, a rant at the typography. There are 7 orphans in the 58 pages of text which is alarming in itself but especially so considering the extra wide pages filled with text having large font size. Also the use of both first line indent and paragraph spacing (and a large one at that) is poor typography as it generates (especially with the number of widows that are there), a lot of distracting white space. The magazine-like marginless spread of the pictures in conjunction with text that do leave margins appear out of place. Speaking of margins, the headers and footers consume much of the top and bottom margins and given the large line spacing, the left and right margins seem like pillarboxes seen on videos. There is also no gutter space to offset the space taken up by the binding process.
And lastly, the editing leaves much to be desired. The use of parentheses, quotation marks and footnotes are inconsistent. Proper punctuation is a nightmare for many writers and I have my own share of embarrassments but a published book ought to do better. There are smaller issues that I will not go into but whose absence would have redeemed some of the obvious problems.
I loved Raconteurs From The Hills which was an awesome read and it did not have the technical problems that this book did. I hope that the typographic creases will be ironed out in subsequent editions.