When he woke, the sky was green: not blue, but green and brown, a sky of leaves and branches with a moving, shifting land below.Advance word for a book I can’t wait to get my hands on. The Honey Hunter is written by my multi-talented friend Karthika Nair (poet, scriptwriter, dance producer, and fellow Mahabharata-obsessive - we have long, subtextual email conversations about the epic), with breathtaking illustrations by Joëlle Jolivet. The story is about a little boy who loves honey and ventures into the Sunderbans to get it, reviving an ancient tussle between a demon king in tiger guise and a benevolent Goddess, both of whom ultimately have the forest’s best interests at heart. Lovely, gentle narrative, full of mystery and awe, but also a cautionary tale with a clear-sighted (and non-pedantic) ecological sense. And this plot synopsis doesn’t begin to do it justice.
He saw colours flashing, changing, disappearing ... mudskippers and fishing cats and hermit crabs, not one staying still long enough for him to be sure he had seen them.
And beneath it all, beneath the chatter of cormorants, egrets and woodpeckers; alongside the rustle of the terrapin and the pythons, and the heavy tread of the water buffalo, he heard the music of the bees: the hum of gazillions of bees hard at work.
In any case, I “read” this book in an unusual, fragmented way: I first saw the drawings page by page on a computer in the Zubaan office, but couldn't read the story then because it was the French version, Le Tigre de Miel; subsequently I read the English version in a text-only file. So I haven’t yet experienced the text and images in conjunction, but that will happen soon.
More about the book here, including a short trailer (for the French translation) that provides a glimpse of some of Jolivet’s artwork. The launch is in various cities this month, including at the Kala Ghoda festival in Mumbai and the World Book Fair in Delhi. (Schedule of events here.)