Thursday, September 08, 2011

Vanished by Sheela Chari

Vanished is Sheela Chari's debut novel for children. It is a story about Neela, an eleven plus girl growing up in the US and trying to hold on to some of her Indian roots or as her parents suggest, assimilate the best that both cultures have to offer.

Like many Indian Tamil kids there, who learn an instrument/ vocal music there, Neela is learning to play the veena.



A 'cursed' Veena with a wyvern carving on it, gifted by her grandma from Chennai, makes its way to Neela in Boston , only to be stolen. After some twists and turns, a close call at a Chennai train station included, she finds it and what she does reflects unexpected generosity in one so young.



There is intrigue, in chapels and music stores. There is a bit of information on the Veena for the uninitiated. Lending excitement is a legendary curse and how marketing ploys work.


The characters including friends both Indian and American are well etched. The Krishnan family sounds like one you know well. There is a quirky Veena teacher and a secretive classmate as well.


Without being judgemental, the author Sheela paints a picture of a (pre) teen's life in the US with Indian parents. Her concerns about oiling her hair ( smell like a salad dressing) , her laughing at her mom's ' drishti' (nazar utaarna) ring true.


A scene that completely blew me away was when the usually irritable sister allows her little brother to listen to her play the Veena and he in turn inadvertently helps her get over stage fright even if in a limited way.

A very interesting and fast read, I felt it would make a good movie. The cover illustration does not do justice to the Veena or the story in my opinion.



Go here for an interview with the author, Sheela by Uma.".......the Author Notes section of my book, I talk about how in Indian Hindu mythology, the veena is both the instrument of Saraswati, the goddess of learning, as well as Ravana, the arch-villain in The Ramayana (a religious text). Likewise, the wyvern (the dragon that appears in Vanished) is also a symbol of valor and strength in medieval history, as well as one of pestilence and revenge. I didn’t go looking for these qualities. But interestingly, as I dug deeper into my story and did more research, I discovered that these objects “resonated” in unexpected, meaningful ways........"

3 comments:

sandhya said...

Neela sounds like any preteen anywhere. Concerns over oily hair-hmmm!

The dichotomy over the associations with the Veena resonate well with the opposite connotations of the wyvern.

artnavy said...

Yes S

Once I get it back,( from my MIL) will pass on to A to read- i think she will like it

artnavy said...

Vanished was chosen as this year's Children's Literature Honor book by the Asian Pacific American Library Association.

Details are here: http://www.papertigers.org/wordpress/more-awards-good-news-apala-awards-and-more/

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