Friday, July 08, 2011

The Merry Mischief of Gopal Bhand

The Merry Mischief of Gopal Bhand
By Devika Rangachari
Published by Scholastic India
Ages - 9 to 12

Growing up in India, most of us would have come across stories of the famous Indian jesters Birbal and Tenali Raman. Their wit, humour and the smart tactics employed by them to amuse their kings, are legendary. But have you heard of Gopal Bhand and Sheikh Chilli, whose stories are no less entertaining ?

The Merry mischief of Gopal Bhand by Devika Rangachari has been sitting in our book shelf for quite sometime. I had kept it aside to be taken out for Sooraj at the appropriate time, when I felt he would grasp the language, since it is meant for middle level readers. What a fantastic discovery it turned out be when we picked up this book now, for it got us started on a new trail !

Gopal Bhand is a jolly, round fellow employed as the court jester of Maharaja Krishna Chandra. The author takes us through the entertaining episodes of Gopal's life in relation to the king, his friends and family. His intelligence and humour make for some very interesting stories. This book was a "Read aloud" for kids' bedtime and they found the tales so absorbing, that it was fetched every night without fail for one more fascinating story ! Apparently, Gopal Bhand is a very famous figure in Beng ali folk literature. This book also gives us a little peek into the Bengali culture.

I enjoyed the stories as much as the kids and was pleased to discover more books in this series called "Wise Men of the East" by Scholastic India.

So the next book that I hunted down was The comic capers of Sheikh Chilli. As per the prologue of the book, Sheikh Chilli was a simpleton born in Pakistan but who moved to Haryana later on in his life.

If Gopal brings a lot of smiles,
Making us marvel at his wiles,
Then Sheikh Chilli has us in splits,
With his innocence and dim wits !

The Sheikh chilli stories retold by Anupa Lal, are so hilarious that my normally reticent son, was laughing uncontrollably as I was reading them aloud ! The character's innocence, foolishness, good endings despite all his goof ups - were all very endearing.

The other books in this series include stories on Tenali Raman, Birbal, Mulla Nasruddin, Vikram & Vetal and a new name that I encountered - Kunhaayan(from the Malabar area). I am quite curious to pick up the last book as it is a completely unheard of name.

These tales of jesters and tricksters, made me curious about more such trickster characters in literature from around the world. The online search led me to - Anansi the spider (Africa) tales, Coyote stories(Native American) and Brer Rabbit(Southern United States). Most of these seem to be animal based characters. Do you know of any more such trickster characters in books ? If so please do leave a comment here and I would be very happy to learn more about them.

Pic Src : Flipkart


sandhya said...

Books by Enid Blyton- not the mysteries or school stories- the earlier ones like Binkle and Flip have plenty such stories.

sathish said...

I loved the covers of these books too.

Also, we could probably add mullah nasruddin to this list.

sathish said...

oops. did not notice you had already mentioned mullah nasruddin.

Unknown said...

I have been looking for this kind of book.Really find interesting and insightful.Great review..I freakin' love the cover of these books.
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Choxbox said...

Heard of Sheikh Chilli - my granny used to tell us the stories at bedtime, but nah never heard of Gopal Bhand, will check it out :)

ranjani.sathish said...

Thanks sandhya for mentioning that..I do not remember having read such stories..will check it out.

Sathish,yes,the cover illustrations are pretty eye catching !

Daniel, thank you for your comments.

Chox, ACK also has a set called Matchless Wits, which feature Gopal and Tenali Raman (as we discovered recently). The pictures of Gopal Bhand in that book are very cute !

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