Book Review in The Pioneer
Tara in wonderland
Sunday, November 05, 2006
The Magic of Maya, Nandita Da Cunha; Rupa & Co, Rs 295
A modern day Alice in Wonderland, the book, The Magic of Maya, is an adaptation. This inevitably indicates at a certain rhythm that sets the tone of the book at the very outset. The sound of music is resonant throughout its 260 pages. A captivating fantasy, the book is a magical journey with "Seven Leaps Across Seven Skies".
Tara, the protagonist, is no more than 10 years old. Events weave around this little girl, who is caught in a surreal nightmare-like situation. She is transported into a musical wonderland by a magical scarf. Thus, the idea of travel is a recurring theme in the book. Uncontrolled change of everything around, constant disappearances and a total inability to gain any foundation in this new world is rampant throughout the novel.
Magic is used as a tool to charm and intrigue readers, as Tara leads them through melodious Maya - the wonderland of imagination crossing the paths of a colourful cast of characters. The plot not only moves through various places, it also attempts to write the familiar into the strange. The Magic of Maya is a novel where the narrative operates through various time and space in the form of memory and phantasmagoria
Travelling across Maya is experienced as entertainment and the uncanny land teases the mind of its readers with its unending quest and strange characters. Tara's efforts to collect ingredients for a spell that will save the musical pipes of Maya and her loved ones in Govan is candid and pictorial. She travels through Rizenglow - the cheerful state inhabited by singing flattes and sharpes, the home of the dancing Ritmos and the watery state populated by the sea sirens. The curiosity is further heightened by mysterious symbols throughout the book - like the Lighthouse in Govan and the odyssey through unresearched territories like the caves and tunnels
In having made Tara the central character, Nandita Da Cunha dexterously vests the child with a certain amount of agency, thus making the book an interesting read, especially for children, and a trip down the memory lane for adults.
Concurrently, the author de-stabilises and juggles with the commonly accepted notions of what is considered to be the normal and the imaginary. Here, Tara's village Govan (which is on earth) is called the underworld by the Mayans.
Once Tara is among the Mayans the adventure begins. Each incident occurring in the land of the Mayans is again surrounded by a certain kind of fantastical absurdity. Tara's attention wanders along a trail of events - each event as perplexing as the other, each identity concealed behind an apparent mask. However, the revelation towards the end makes for an interesting twist in the tale. The novel sails smoothly engaging its readers till the time the issues are finally resolved.
The book, The Magic of Maya, finally presents the tussle between the creator and the scheming destroyer, the good and the evil, the conflict and the resolution. The book delves into a broader debate of the universal cycle where the positive and the negative forces are constantly at loggerheads with each other. Maya is synonymous to an endless, inevitable cycle where the author reinstates that the world which we inhabit is nothing but a mere illusion.