India Now - page 60

Master Storytelling
at its Best
A coming of
age book with a difference.
book in words.
Employing the stream of con-
sciousness technique, the author
travels back and forth in time and
space through varied experiences
of his life and that of his co-author,
drawing for us in the process, a
delightful picture, part ironic, part
amusing, part self-deprecating
and on the whole realistic—of
India—a puzzle with a tantalising
message at the end that promises
to be life enlightening. This in
sum is
Paper Boat: Discovering
India with a Master Storyteller
There is little doubt that both
Ken Kerkhoff and S M Pejathaya
are master storytellers gifted with
the art of weaving pictorial can-
vases in words. The book is an
account of Kerkhoff’s tryst with
India—a travel and adventure
tale with a difference. This story
runs on two levels for it also
searches for true meaning under
the grime and grit, the hurly and
burly of rural India. It is partly a
memoir and an ode to friendship
that helped him become the pilot
of the ship and navigate his own
destiny (read his time in India)
from degenerating into a nerve-
wracking travail. Instead, it led
are smiling at his happy squeals
on getting the sweet rice ball
treat; clapping when he expertly
manoeuvres to field a ball and
being one with the boys sharing
his agony when he falls in the
stinking pit and has to be bathed
a number of times with fragrant
soaps to wash off the smell. The
image of Murali remains etched
in your mind as it has with Peja-
thaya after many decades. The
author expertly manoeuvres the
readers through simple linguistic
channels to emerge drenched in
pathos of Murali’s plight—the
domesticated adult Murali in ser-
vice of the temple. However, not
once does he directly talk about it.
A master storyteller for sure!
The design of the book is as
interesting as the plot. The two
master wordsmiths intersperse
their stories like layers, with Kerk-
hoff acting as the chief dramatis
personae and the narrator. He
plays the key role of connecting
each chapter and idea, thus ensur-
ing that the book comes out as a
compact multi-layered chronicle of
real life narratives. An intriguing
travelogue encapsulating the time-
lessness of human emotions.
him to a deep understanding of an
alien culture and finally to love it
and its people.
Kerkhoff’s affair with India
begins in 1968, when he arrives
in a remote village in South India
as a trainee volunteer of American
Peace Corps; his baptism in the
country begins literally by fire—
albeit by fire ants and scorpions
at the host farmer’s barn. The
description of the rural country-
side of India is not amorphous or
superficial. The reader is trans-
ported through the words of the
author to the tiny South Indian
rural side as the events unfold.
The feeling is akin to being an
invisible companion of the author
through all his escapades, trials
and tribulations.
Pejathaya is no mean writer too.
His description of the warring
tigers in his uncle’s fields brings
alive the night sky, the palpable
fear of the people and danger that
lurks in the open fields. It gives
the readers a glimpse into the
tough world of the rural people.
The story of Murali, the baby ele-
phant is a humorous read. Murali
is not just any baby elephant and
by the end of the chapter, you
Ken Kerkhoff
has a passion
for travel and
adventure and
at an early age
travelled much of
Asia, Europe and
Africa. In India,
he employed
his agriculture
skills to assist
the Government
of India in
the Green
Revolution. He
writes creative
non-fiction and
S M Pejathaya
began writing
about his
with the wildlife
on his coconut
farm during
prolonged Kerala
monsoons. A
farmer, he
authors short
stories and has
published four
“...let the reader experience the shock of being faced
with an alien culture and then slowly progress
into…a love for that culture and the people...”
Ken Kerkhoff, Author
1...,50,51,52,53,54,55,56,57,58,59 61,62
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