Curious Lives: Adventure Fables from an Enchanting World, Richard Bach, Jaico Publishing Co., Pp 373 (PB), Rs 295.00
THIS book by Richard Bach, an American, writer-pilot, is semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalised events from his life to illustrate his philosophy. He earned worldwide fame for his hugely popular 1970’s bestseller, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
This book is the story of a world where the inhabitants – poised on the brink of extinction at their own hands – rise from the ashes to create a world, a utopia where there is no crime, no war and hatred.
It begins with a team of ferrets, who love exploring mysteries, landing upon a small blue planet, where the team discovers a hidden valley that opens on to the land of the humans. The ferrets find these creatures a promising species of grace and charm, intelligence and curiosity, of warm humour and great courage. As a result of this and as a result of the dangers and promises that lie ahead for the young race, the ferrets give to the humans four powers with which they could prevail over the challenges to come. The first of the four powers is of fire, the second is the power of the wheel, the third is the power of written language and the fourth is the power of courtesy and respect.
The humans are quick to learn and cherish the gifts that the ferrets have brought for them. As the explorers prepare to depart, the humans beg them to stay on and to share with them the delights of the brave new civilisation that would rise. The ferrets are touched and promise to return. On the day of their departure, one human turns to them and says, “Of these powers, dear ferrets, which is the first among them, which would you have us guard above all others?”
“Well asked,” reply the ferrets. “Without fire, you can prosper and without the wheel and without the alphabet also for many have prospered on your planet and across the galaxies without these. The one power, without which no civilisation can long survive, however, is the last – the power of courtesy and respect for each other and for all life.”
The humans murmur, understand and use their new letters to scribe the courtesies on tablets of onyx, the words finished in purest silver. When the ferrets depart, the new race learns swiftly, mastering the nature of fire and wheel and alphabet. They ponder long, however, how best to protect the most precious of powers and at last it is agreed to keep the tablets of the courtesies in the safest place their world can offer. Out of reverence, no copy is made, nor are its holy words read but by those who have first heard them from the ferrets.
And so it comes to pass that the one essential of the four gifts is weighted in rare metals and precious jewels, locked within a giant chest of iron and after a long voyage and with great ceremony, is given to the waves and buried safe forever in the uttermost part of the sea.
Presented in the form of an anthology of five small stories written from the viewpoint of five sets of ferrets, the reader gets to embrace the ferrets’ curiosity and love for the moment, psychologically realistic musings and joyful message. It is a delight to read about the magical escapades of these loving creatures, the ferrets, as they seek their rights through courage, sacrifice, heroism, creativity to find what matters most in life – their happiness.
The author tries to show that the ferrets are bright beings with certain mannerisms and who do exactly what they are good at. They get past our defence mechanisms, right into our hungry hearts and battered psyches.
(Jaico Publishing House, A-2, Jash Chambers, Sir Phirozshah Mehta Road, Fort, Mumbai-400 001; www.jaicobooks.com)