There are stories that are a part of one’s growing up, and then there are those that one can never outgrow. Simply because they cannot be outgrown. Otter the Great (Bhodor Bahadur in Bengali) is one such story. A classic in Bengali literature, it’s the only writing that Gaganendranath Tagore, the nephew of the great poet Rabindranath Tagore penned for children. Sadly though, unlike the works of his uncle this writing is not so well-known outside of Bengal.
It’s a story that’s rich in fantasies that it evokes, yet so simple in its telling. They say that something of a child must live within a children’s writer or else he/she will not be able to write for children. And it is perhaps this childlike wonder and curiosity; the spirited self of Gaganendranath Tagore – coupled with his sheer power of narration, beauty of language and enchantment of word-pictures – that continues to capture the imagination of young minds, even after over a century of its writing. With magic and mayhem, mansions and palaces, forests and gardens, monsters and demons, whacky animals and eccentric people, mysterious boxes and strange rooms, Gaganendranath Tagore creates a whole new world for children. Not just that, he makes this world extremely believable – a world that’s surely hard to get out of.
Born out of his untethered imagination, the spunky creatures that Gaganendranath Tagore creates in this story are not just fantastical, but have a distinct Indian feel about them – each complete with its unique personality and idiosyncrasies – which is at once extremely unique and immensely appealing. In a simple way this story can change the way we see the animal world, and can lend the imagination to see what we usually do not.