Book Reviews

Hema Ravi: The Cuckoo Sings Again

I picked up the colourful slim book titled "The Cuckoo Sings Again", by Hema Ravi.

The author straddles multiple roles - poet, writer, reviewer (to name a few) - with elan. A good administrator, she nurtures many aspiring poets and writers and hones their creative skills esp youngsters.

The layout of the book is unique, and each story is laced with a picture to suit the story line, while a few poems have been introduced in some stories to make it more meaningful or to drive home the essence of the story. A few quotes add clarity to the message in the story.

I guessed that the title must relate to one of the short stories in the book. I moved to the contents and located the story from the list of sixteen short stories.

This story talks about Seena, who silently handles deftly, the travails in her daily chores but not finding time for her passion to blossom. Until one day, listening to a very popular tamil song in Carnatic, being played in a radio from a roadside tea stall, she too involuntarily starts to sing loudly, not realising she was on the road. This drew 'tremendous applause from a few morning walkers. This brought out a spring in her step, singing along to her heart's content. All the others had no choice but to listen to the cuckoo's song'.

This rang a bell in me. On analysing the cover picture I visualise that the picture depicts a woman as a broad tree, with the outstretched arms representing the branches of the tree, which effortlessly balances her daily chores, she addresses, while carefully nurturing her family under her umbrella. Perched on her arm is a silent Cuckoo, waiting for the opportune moment to break into a fitting melody.

Needless to say, the protagonists in the first few stories represent the Cuckoo who find avenues at some point in their lives to showcase the latent talent, when the opportunities present itself.

Nupur, the introvert, finds her voice in 'An Orator is Born' and her speeches send the audiance into raptures. Brimming with confidence, she extols, 'Hold on to your dreams, dream big and achieve them all, little by little'.

Due to force of circumstances, Thangamma who works in a crematorium in 'Beyond Stereotypes' is not able to make both ends meet but she yearns to provide a better life for her young child. Due to a sudden turn of events, she is blessed with a windfall and a mentor, which helps her to plan for a better life for her son even though it means a sad parting.

Saudamini, the protagonist in 'Quintessential Woman' hones her skill in her culinary capabilities and becomes an expert and much sought after. This inspires her to share her recipes in print and convert it into a commercial proposition, which improves her financial independence.

Some of the stories touch the emotional chord very strongly.

'The Train Journey' depicts the perceived pangs of fear/ dangers lurking in the minds of the mother at night, while travelling all alone with two infants on a long train journey.

The Cuckoo in Seena, shares her tumultuous life's journey with Ranga, her school mate and now the Principal of the institution (sharing on his retirement), in which she's the Vice Principal in 'Survival Against Odds'.

Our Indian culture of sharing, espoused even in not well to do families, is very well portrayed in 'Atithi Devo Bhava'.

The emotional bonding and family ties is well documented in 'Letter from Mother to Daughter' and adds variety in presentation.

Our Indian tradition and culture of enjoying a meal on a banana leaf is well brought out, with scientific reasoning in the story 'At The Wedding Hall', which readers will cherish.

'Lessons from Children' provides snippets on the capabilities of children, which most of us fail to recognise and appreciate.

'The Red Car' takes the reader on a ride with the twenty-two month Adhya, 'excited at the assortment of vehicles and sights ahead'.

Cheating and dishonesty, in later years, between so called friends right from school days is the theme in 'Obsessions Stain' which concludes with the message 'Cheating on a good person is like throwing away a diamond and picking up a rock'.

The irreparable loss of young Narain in an accident, leaving the parents Parvathi and Mahadeven, grieving, is brought out as an anecdote in 'Memories in a Slate', with a very touching poem handwritten on a slate by Narain as an epithet.

The popular story of King Midas is elaborated in 'Fairy Tale Retold : The Golden Statue'.

The purchase of sarees from shops was an event in itself in those bygone days and the anecdote is well pictured in 'Nostalgia', with a twist at the end.

The age old adage'Adversity brings out the best in you', is the message in 'A Thief Meets; His Mettle', where Parvathi braves the odds to scare away an intruder out to snatch her mangalsutra.

To sum up, the stories are based on real- life incidents, with occasional twists and turns that are fictional and carry a distinct message.

There is a latent Cuckoo in each one of us, which is bound to sing at some stage in our lives.

After reading this collection of short stories, the Cuckoo in me has awakened to pen this review.

My best wishes to the author Hema Ravi.


More by :  Sundar Rajan

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Views: 3358      Comments: 1

Comment A superbly-penned, comprehensive review that does full justice to the book "The Cuckoo Sings Again" by my dear friend and respected writer Hema Ravi. Your review provided me a nice revisit of the short stories. Kudos and respect, Sundar Rajan ji.

Padmaja Iyengar-Paddy
03-Sep-2022 11:35 AM

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