This graphic fiction is set against a hotel located on top of a mountain where the owners of the hotel are visited by an odd traveller or two, once in a while. One day, two travellers arrive, looking famished. It is business as usual with Pema dishing up rice and pork curry for the visitors, who stop by for a drink and refuge from the rains. Since there is nothing else to entertain either the residents or the visitors, they keep themselves amused by telling and listening to stories.
On their journey to China, Kona and Kuja, bound together by fate as one has no legs and the other is half blind, they travel on a bicycle, cross a bridge and a swirling river to reach the hills before seeing a high bridge going “high up to the heavens”. Their companion Sibu sells them to a construction gang and disappears from the site. Since neither Kona nor Kuja are used to working they do acrobatics and keep the workers entertained. They believe that the bridge would circle the world many times as it is so big but they soon escape from there. They then trail the Floating Island which is the promised land of plenty.
Pema tells the story about lost love while her husband speaks of homesick Japanese soldiers in Manipur and the Nagas during the World War II. Talking of the Floating Island, a little girl sets out to fetch water and chances upon something quite unexpected — her father’s body lying asleep on the bed while his soul has gone in search of a soul for the Death-god, thus making the girl wonder why her father is different from other fathers.
The text is illustrated to repeat the oral storytelling and folklore tradition against the background of the World War II, commando war and Buddhist art—a world that seems so surreal, so strange!
(Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017.)