Nobody has ever been there. Nobody knows about the country. But Amarendra Chakravorty is a magic-writer. He has done us a big favour by writing the book 'Amajoner Jangolé'. It is only by reading this book I came to know that 'the Amazon is the moon's own country'. It is impossible to realize the magic without reading the book. I feel that Chakravorty has picked up his pen after a long time to fulfill an enormous requirement of Bengali literature.

      Everybody knows that adults are an eager reader of children's literature. They thirst for a well-written children's book. I am also one of them. A favourite book/story can be read over and over again. It makes me sad to say that today storytelling may be found only in distant villages and in some folk cultures. The days of storytelling and listening to them are over. Stories that were narrated orally or written down. Growing up on those stories. Reading storybooks. Everything is over now. Grandparents do not have a place in the household and even if they do, they do not tell stories any more. As an infant, I was a dedicated listener of stories. As I grew up a little, I became a good storyteller. I praise myself because Bengalis today have forgotten the art of story telling or listening.

      Amarendra Chakravorty is a wizard of a storyteller. I have read his books over and over again- Hiru Dakat, Sada Ghora, Gour Jajabar or Amazoner Jangole. The innocent romanticism, the magic-pictures of youth along with the introduction to the forest and the forestdwellers found in Amazoner Jangole reminds one of Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay. Is Amarendra equal to Bibhutibhusan as a writer? He is a minstrel of the present time. He is a writer in his own way.

      He realized the need to introduce youths to the world of forests, rivers and children of the forests and so penned Amazoner Jangole. He also speaks about the hardhearted reality. The children of the forest are protected by Boto. They know all that is to be known about plants and fruits. In India, I know only one person who is very concerned about the knowledge that has accumulated through years of tribal heritage. Amarendra does not know him. But then he has also written about an eternal truth that we did not know about. The knowledge that the Ubas have derived from the sky-fields-rivers-plants is their weapon. They do not destroy nature. I think the words 'greed' and 'lust' cannot be found in their dictionary.

      On the other hand, it is this same world that is threatened by us. The Uncle of the storyteller collects precious stones from this forest and river, strangers survey the forest from helicopter. They will cut down the forest. They abduct the lad who is actually telling the story. They feel that no civilised person can stay with the bush-people.

      This is the truth. About which I write. I see for myself everyday. The non-tribal people know nothing about our tribals. Because they never wanted to know. The tribal heritage and culture, their faith and knowledge has been destroyed without caring to know about them.

      'Amazoner Jangole' also talks about it. For a long time now, the forests and people of the Amazon valley are being devastated. Chakravorty has also drawn the children's attention to the fact.

      The infant mind is like virgin clay. The seed of love for forests-river-nature has to be sown in an infant's mind at an early stage. It is done by telling stories. It is an easy task. But there is nobody to carry out the easy task.

      I want that Amarendra Chakravorty’s books and other modern classic Bengali books must be turned into cassettes. Let the children hear some aged voice telling them stories about what happened l-o-n-g long years ago. There is no dearth of storytellers among today's young people. They can narrate some mundane incident in a funny way.

      And I also want that a book that contains so many truthful sayings couched in the story itself must be translated into other Indian languages. Let children speaking different languages read the book. Let another child in some other language come and ask me, 'Have you read the story about Uba?' Let such a day happen soon. 

Published in Aajkaal, a Bengali Daily from Kolkata, July 20, 2002. 

The reviewer has won various awards and attributes for her literary works – the Academy Award, International  Magsaysay  Award, Officers of the Order of Arts & Letters, etc.  She is a highly acclaimed novelist and one of the top writers of modern India.