Guest post by Radhika Chadha: A juicy-shoocy story
A good decade-plus after Yes, Hutoxi!, Mannu the monkey jumped off a jamun tree to give the much loved Baby Bahadur series its sixth book. The author now gives us the story behind the delicious
When I wrote I’m So Sleepy nearly 20 years ago, I had no idea that Bahadur and his gang would take up residence in my life for so many years. The next four books came out in quick succession, and then there was a long gap. I was urged to go back to the jungle – “Write about Chandu”… “No, Kamalnayan”… However, Mannu decided his story needed to be told.
Memory is tricky – sometimes long forgotten experiences from a dim and distant past surface decades later in a story, without my realising it. Mannu and the Jamun Thief was written recently but the image of jamun and monkeys must have been lurking in a corner of my mind for a long time, ever since I heard my father recite a Sanskrit poem by Kalidasa.
Legend has it that Kalidasa had been challenged by jealous courtiers to write a poem with the nonsense sounds ‘gulu guggulu guggulu’. Kalidasa promptly recited:
पतन्ति विमले जले।
गुळु गुग्गुळु गुग्गुळु
Translation: When the branch of the jamun tree is shaken by a monkey, the ripe berries fall into the sparkling water, making the sound ‘gulu guggulu guggulu’.
My father loved Kalidasa’s poetry but this little verse was his favourite, perhaps because of the irreverent mischief with which Kalidasa won the challenge. I remember listening to him as a child. He would recite the gulu guggulu guggulu with onomatopoeic gusto, rolling the ळ Lla sound with much relish while I imagined playful monkeys swinging on branches, gorging on jamun. I think he would have been quite delighted to see this verse celebrated in my story. And in a coincidence that was moving in its serendipity, my copies of Mannu arrived on my father’s birthday.
Lovers of languages might find it fun to see how this verse looks in different Indian scripts. Many have the ळ intact in all its rounded glory, sounding just as it did when Kalidasa spoke, nearly 1,700 years ago.
It’s a pleasing and satisfying sound, the ळ. There’s a deliciously plump, roly-poly feel to it, as if you were speaking while biting into a jamun berry.
I wish there was a similar sound in English, so that readers of Mannu could roll that ळ around when they chant pulpy-shulpy purply-shurply pulpy-shulpy purply-shurply.
puळpy shuळpy purpळly shurpळly puळpy shuळpy purpळly shurpळly
Go ahead, give it a try, you’ळ see.