The Book of MN and Me
The year 2008 saw the publication of another book by Sampurna Chattarji for young people, from Penguin Books India, under the Puffin imprint. Mulla Nasruddin was not just another retelling of the beloved Sufi prankster’s jokes, but a tale that wove the Hodja’s often baffling, invariably hilarious stories into the coming-of-age experience of a thirteen-year-old boy, who chronicles his encounters with Mulla Nasruddin in the form of The Book of MN and Me.
Here’s what some of the reviews had to say about the book:
MEETING MULLA NASRUDDIN
Shashank is finding life tough. He takes refuge in doodling. Will it give him the answers he is looking for?
It isn’t easy being 13 and losing a parent. Coupled with the pressures of having to do well at school and continue to be the all rounder that he is considered to be, Shashank’s life isn’t what you would call rosy. Well, his mother is sad and lonely without Shashank’s dad but instead of admitting to that she is trying to be brave and taking decisions that he doesn’t like at all. She constantly keeps an eye on him and in such a situation what’s a boy to do? Well, Shashank chooses to doodle and going by the way Sampurna Chatterji’s Mulla Nasruddin shapes up, that’s the best thing he could have chosen to do.
For it’s from a doodle that the clever Mulla springs up and straight into Shashank’s life without any warning, bringing with him wit, many occasions for laughter and a wisdom that will ultimately help Shashank and all of us understand life’s ‘unexplainables’ a little better.
The Mulla’s stories are many. They feature donkeys, miserly neighbours and sometimes historical greats who all adore the clever Mulla. Like Timur Lane for instance. Who is this Mulla? He seems to be ageless and without a real identity. Shashank wants to know more about him but the Mulla doesn’t tell and in these times what better than the internet for info? Shashank logs on to get caught in a magic grid so powerful that it calls upon all his resources to plan an escape. Does Shashank get away? Does he have to leave his beloved city and go away? Let me be like the Mulla and say nothing…
– Paromita Pain, The Hindu, Tuesday, Jun 17, 2008
Sampurna Chattarji’s Mulla Nasruddin explores the deep, dark and unknown fears of a young boy, but not necessarily in a dark manner. In fact, the book is replete with amusing and witty anecdotes — the hallmark of the Mulla himself.
Shashank, a young school-going lad, struggles with his maths homework. He fails to concentrate as depressing thoughts get the better of him. Distraught by his father’s unexpected death in a catastrophic bomb blast, Shashank is yet to come to terms with the harsh reality that life has suddenly placed him in. As Shashank’s thoughts wander off, a quirky doodle comes alive and takes the shape of a turbaned little man with a scruffy beard and ‘shiny eyes and a nose as sharp as a look in those eyes’. The little man introduces himself as Mulla Nasruddin or MN.
In trying to derive reason from what seems unconnected and absurd, Shashank unknowingly embarks on a journey of self-evaluation and discovery. Gradually, he begins to confront his worst fears and emerges strong with a greater understanding of his own self.
Drawing tales from Sufi myth, Chattarji has woven a colourful tale that reflects knowledge, wisdom and humour.
– Debashree Majumdar, The Telegraph, Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Pranav Mehta: Indian Women Writers Writing for Youngsters:
“Last but not the least, I read ‘Mulla Nasruddin’ by Sampurna Chattarji. This book, by far was one of my most memorable reads because of, as Jane Austen aptly put it, its sense and simplicity. The book moved me in ways I cannot express.
The plot is convincing and simple. Shashank the Sad, is a teenager in Mumbai who has lost his father in the 7/11 bomb blasts that rocked the local trains of the city. One day, however, he is visited by Mulla Nasruddin, the witty Middle Eastern jester who is universally known for his sharp wit. The awesome twosome strike up an unconventional friendship between two completely opposite personalities: a troubled soul and a fictitious character. The Mulla charms the young Shashank and entertains him with scores of stories that are primarily based on his journeys. Ranging from donkeys to ferocious kings to brainiacs to roads on trees, Mulla, who is addressed to as ‘MN’, constantly narrates tall tales to his new friend. The stories are not only funny but are also incidents that truly test one’s intellect. Shashank, a loner finds solace in these tales.”
To read Pranav Mehta’s full review visit:
But according to the author, the best review she got was from a poet-friend’s hyper-critical thirteen-year-old daughter, who told Sampurna after reading the book – “It was cool.”