Dot after dot, cone after cone, curve within curve and intertwining lines. All set in the brightest of blues, greens and yellows. A story told by Chandrakala Jagat a Gond Tribal,The Magical Fish is illustrated in Gond style by Shankunlata Kushram, a Gond herself. Published by Tulika ‘The Magical Fish’ is an example of the great Gond traditions of art and story-telling.
The Gonds are the largest tribal group of South-Asia. Their culture is steeped in nature which they see as the root of all things. The Gonds are known for their oral tradition of story telling. Gond artists use natural colour for their paintings. Sources include plant sap, dung , soil and charcoal. The use of repetitive patterns make the image come alive, almost animated. The Magical Fish bears testimony to this oral and artistic tradition of the Gonds.
In a village the people are restless and without joy. The difficulties of everyday life suck the happiness out of their lives and fights among the villagers are common.An old woman dukariya started seeking a solution. The wind helps her by telling her of a magical fish in a faraway place that will take the sadness away.The dukariya and her two daughters embark on a journey of finding and seeking the magical fish. They reach the fish’s home after a long journey.
The fish comes to the village and joy returns to the village in the form of more trees and grain. The fish tells the villagers that as long as she is unharmed the village will continue to prosper and stay happy. The villagers know the magical fish from the others, who soon abound in the rivers and lakes filling the villager’s stomachs and souls, by her nose ring!
The story reiterates the thread that ties man and nature together. It reminds us that our own happiness and survival rests on how well we take care of nature. The farther we move from nature, the more we use resources without replenishing them, the higher is the chance that man will suffer and lose joy.This is an important lesson that needs to be learnt young. We can learn from this wisdom has been passed on from generation to generation of the Gonds .
The Magical Fish is a wonderful book to show children Gond art and literature. It is a good book to initiate discussions on what are tribes, the tribes of India as well as the interdependence between Nature and man.This book is an excellent example of the various cultures that make India so divergent with a rich cultural tapestry.