Walking through a surreal world

Dancing With the Clouds' by Tarab Khan is a breath of fresh air in this otherwise mundane and mechanical world. The aesthetic cover of the book itself draws the reader into the supernatural world of fables and fairy tales. Such is the visual appeal of the cover and the graphic illustration (enshrined inside the book) that the reader is instantly transported into a mystical realm. A collection of eight stories, crafted with fecund imagination and great finesse, it brings enormous satisfaction, not only at the cerebral but also at the spiritual level.

A dreamy world, full of magic and fantasy unravels before the reader through the enchanting and enigmatic stories. The first story introduces the reader to a little girl and her tryst with a Gypsy Fair. The fairytale-like beginning of the story whets a sense of profound curiosity and makes us eager to explore what lies wrapped in the thick layer of mystery '. The little girl has gravitated towards a mysterious gipsy woman who gives her a magical kaleidoscope. What follows is a wondrous journey into the subterranean lanes of the metaphysical world. The characters of the old labourer, a monkey, old man and the shrewd magician, all have a deeper connection to the other stories in the book. The vivid and magnificent imagery of the land of Kamaroo and island of Nankhatoi proffers the reader a feel of being a part of a multihued painting of fathomless elegance.

The story, 'Rozina and the Firefly' is also quite a touching fable. A beautiful relationship between the Rozina, the sparrow and her captive, Zene, the firefly is depicted in an imaginary world of Kasna. Rozina adores Zene, but her fear to lose him makes her keep him caged in a glass box. Zene is unhappy and agitated because he longs for his freedom. Gradually, a bond of trust and love is developed and Rozina allows Zene to fly outside. He would fly back with numerous stories from the outside world and Rozina would be lost in them. The symbolic meaning of the story is revealed as they embark on their journey towards the far and unknown places. At one point, Zene in response to Rozina's admiration for his sensibilities, quotes, 'When the student is ready, the teacher appears.' Though in power and strength Rozina is superior, the story makes the reader ponder if Zene is the teacher here. The fabric of a surreal world which the author weaves with her artistic prowess reminds us of the supernatural settings in most of the poems of ST Coleridge. The book defies the logic of science therefore as Coleridge remarks that the reader must suspend his disbelief before setting foot into this gothic landscape.

'Aril and Lira', the story of mirror image fishes is about another fundamental human emotion, desire. We pine for exploring the hitherto unexplored territories and nurture the desire to translate our weirdest of the dreams into reality. However, the question arises whether the happiness derived from the desires is mere illusionary, a mirage? A cat that wants to see the underwater world, a fish that wants to reach the moon and a majestic mermaid lend this story a perfect elfin and uncanny texture and tenor. Though most of the fairy tales end on a happily ever after note, this one leaves the reader with many afterthoughts and much of rumination. The underlying philosophy is quite subtle and taps on the deepest chords of human hearts.

The stories 'Magnifying World of Laika' and 'Dancing with the Clouds' are richly resplendent with the esoteric imaginary elements. Even though the stories sustain on the figments of sheer imagination, they never drift away from the principle philosophies of real-life and emotions and that is where the magic of the author lies as a master raconteur. She consummately blends unreal with the real.

'Dancing With The Clouds' is a book which should be read by everyone. It has no boundaries of age and class. It retains the ability to enthral the readers, not only because of the supernatural elements in the stories but also due to the underlying profound symbolic meaning which they carry. It gives food for thought and leaves the taste buds of your intellect with a sweet lingering flavour.

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