Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Sliver of Moonbeam by Ipsita Banerjee

The other day I was reading Ruskin Bond's "Notes From A Small Room" (a collection of his writings, taken from his diary and notebooks, up till a few years ago) and came across the name of one of his shorter pieces titled, "Catch a Moonbeam" - that has not been published before. Though I haven't yet finished reading the book, yet needless to say that I enjoy his writings immensely. He is one of my all time favourite authors.

In case you are wondering why I brought in Ruskin Bond and one of his works here, well, all I can say is that I am about to share my thoughts on lawyer-turned-debutant author Ipsita Banejee's first offering, "A Sliver of Moonbeam". Now you can see the "moonbeam" connection, no? But I have no plans of digressing any further.

Published by Frog Books, this one is a slim volume - only 106 pages; something you can curl up with on a lazy weekend, or read as a bed time book, or it can even serve as a quick read while traveling to and fro from work or any other destination for that matter. And at only Rs.95 it is very light on the pocket too!

Don't judge the book by the number of pages, coz it does pack in a quite a lot within its covers. Short stories - fiction as well as a few inspired from real life - some dark and with a twist in the tale, others - a little poignant, some sprinkled with a dash of humour, that will ensure a gentle smile on your lips. And then there are verses, a few that are an ode to Ipsita’s longing for her father - her Baba - whose presence and arms she seeks: to feel protected, to feel secure and to be the little girl once again with nary a care in the world. She also pens her thoughts, rather her feelings, on seeing him in pain - while lying in the ICU, and then his eventual journey into the sunset.

There are others too: of yearning, of faded love, of a sterile life, of longing and pining for someone, of wanting to be careless, carefree and casual once again.

There are myriad shades, though I would not say that the verses (rhymes rather) made for some deep philosophical musings, insights, etc., yet they do manage to leave an impact. Somewhat that is.

Why has the author called her first offering "A Sliver of Moonbeam" - I know not.

But what I liked best were her musings - drawn from real life. Titled, "Music and Perfume", "Sounds", "Little Angels", "Family Vacations", "Call In Them, Idiots!", "Nothing", "Idyllic Holidays", "Bengali", "Non-Application of Mind", "Mornings" and "Thanks, Mr. Bell" - they make for some delightful reading.

About her tryst with trying her hand at piano playing, her attempts at singing, on being tone deaf and how she was thrilled when her daughters were born. Since everyone exclaimed how lucky she was to be blessed with two little angels ... and how even after the passage of over a decade, she is still waiting for the slightest hint of a halo on either head, even an illusory soap induced rainbow like aura!

There are her musings about life when there was no TV and about life when suddenly there was TV all day and all night! And how she has never found a better baby sitter to rival the idiot box. You will smile reading about her account of the dreaded part of family vacations - packing; especially with her two brats, one of whom insists on wearing a slip of a dress on New Year’s eve, in Bhutan - in winter; while the other wants to carry her skimpy shorts that "make my legs look long". And how a chocolate she had insisted could not travel with them was later found to be squished inside her favourite sweater (!) and how while trying out the local food she would be greeted with a "You just ate an unborn pearl, Ma!"

Being maid-less for six weeks and then finally tiring of fantasizing about a luxurious life in a mansion with Brad Pitt. Of being pregnant and handed a long list of don'ts (including any book by Stephen King) and generally being asked to just lie in bed and dream of cherubic babies; then giving birth and feeling like a cow that has given birth to a leech hanging on to her breast for dear life! Reminisces of every childhood holidays spent in water or on trees ... than on land. Of the immense possibilities and challenges posed by languages, especially Bengali - where one would end up saying a whole paragraph in order to call someone "nyaka" (a complete Bengali specialty, I tell you) - in English. Of being a minor expert in rain showers, and on being constantly 'advised' by her mother on the importance of a steady diet of fish curry and rice - for her kids (instead of the worthless Maggi) - since "it makes your brains open up" ... while all the while she was sure that it didn't work for her!

Of scoring 3/100 in Sanskrit, of her brats informing her that there is 'shor' in her doodh and that she does not like Complan so why she cannot get Milo instead. This, during the morning mega rush, while she is struggling to pack them to school! Of times when the telephone was an instrument, black and heavy - that one could even use the receiver as a dumbbell because the telephone lines were not working most of the time anyway. Of being heard giggling on the phone (by her parents) and how conversations longer than 10 seconds made the frown lines deeper ... and 'the ultimate sin' - if, God forbid, any BOY called. Of relying on the Indian Postal System of getting her thoughts across, and on still getting tongue-tied on the phone.

I really had a good time reading this section and I feel Ipsita has a good hand at fun and humour. Its gentle and relatable and not the sidesplitting type and her writings do make us reminisce on our own lives, as well as our childhood and carefree times past. I would love to read more of her writings in the future, especially this aspect of her writings. She does not give the impression of trying too hard and is effortless.

The book feels good to hold and I don't really recollect any editing errors; so if at all there were any, they must have been really negligible. And that certainly added to the reading pleasure.

Suggestions: I wish some more thought had been given to the choice of the titles - of each story/chapter. There is some scope for improvement, rather innovativeness there. Ditto the book blurb. This brings me to the book jacket cover. I won't say it is unsuitable, however I feel it falls short of doing justice to the contents of the book. There should have been some "sunshine" there, so to speak - in line with the funny, humourous, tangy, sweet, bitter sweet and sarcastic flavours - which lie within its fold. As we all know, visuals are important in choosing a book - especially by a debutante author, where 'First impress-aan izz last impress-aan'!

My Rating: I am going with a 3.5/5 for Ipsita Banerjee's debut book and I look forward to her future writings with interest.

Details of the book: A Sliver of Moonbeam/ Author: Ipsita Banerjee/ Publisher: Frog Books (an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)/ Publishing Date: 2011/ ISBN: 978-93-81115-15-2/ Pages: 106/ Price: Rs.95 (Rs.81 @

About the Author: Ipsita Banerjee describes herself as irreverent, crazy and tactless, but also a mother, a lawyer, a wife and a daughter. Like most women today, she plays a juggling act: maid, driver, tutor, professional, cook... and writes when she has the time. She lives in Calcutta with a large assortment of in-laws, and can be contacted at