After The Gun Island, Amitav Ghosh fans did not have to wait too long for his next book. After it was released last month, Jungle Nama is making waves all across South Asia and beyond, and rightly so. That Ghosh may pen an entire book in verse sounded like a bit of a stretch to many. “Jungle Nama is Amitav Ghosh’s verse adaptation of an episode from the legend of Bon Bibi, a tale popular in the villages of the Sundarban, which also lies at the heart of the novel The Hungry Tide,” says the publisher’s blurb.
In most parts of the Sundarbans, Bon Bibi acts as the glue between the different ethno-cultural and religious groups. Bon Bibi paalagaan, a traditional dramatic performance to invoke the deity’s blessings, has been influenced by both Hindu and Islamic cultures. According to popular legend, Bon Bibi, along with her brother Shah Jongoli, was sent by Allah to protect the islanders from tigers. Bon Bibi is said to have once saved a shepherd boy, Dukhey, from the clutches of Dokkhin Rai, a powerful demon king in the guise of a tiger. After the defeat, Rai accepted Bon Bibi as his mother. Since then, it is believed that Bon Bibi can save people from tigers.
by HarperCollins India and wonderfully illustrated by Salman Toor, Jungle Nama reflects the commitment of a writer who not only writes about a captivating region of the world with all its beauty, but also highlights the consequences of a deteriorating relationship between nature and humans.