Book: The Fairly Ordinary Princess
Author: Khushboo Shah
Genre: Children’s Fantasy (works for adults, too)
Looking for a light read that’s bound to warm your heart this winter and make you smile on the dullest of days? Well, Khushboo Shah’s debut novella ‘The Fairly Ordinary Princess’ would fit the bill just right!
A great man had once said, “When you consciously choose to be ordinary, you become extraordinary.” Something similar happens in this particular novella – the writer wields her pen (or laptop, in this case) and churns out a delightful tale of the spunky 14-year-old modern day Princess Nirzari who has the superpower to get lost in the world of books. What ensues is a colourful and endearing tale of action, adventure, emotion, discovery, introspection, busting myths and forming new tender bonds. And as we read, we realise that both the tale and its protagonist are anything but ordinary!
The names of the characters are unique and suggestive – the all-knowing, wise parrot Jawaab-e-Hazir is blessed with the gift of ready repartee and rhyming verse. Sayaani is the shrewd soothsayer while Gustaakh-e-dil is the cheeky albino parrot. The human characters of Keshavdas, the King and the Queen, the supercool and prudent royal Grandmother, Grandsire Dabbu, Nirzari’s younger brother Amarjeet (with his IPad) and others, contribute significantly to propel the story forward. Mustafa, the monkey, and Firki, the spider, also play their parts well. I particularly enjoyed Firki’s physical description – soft and velvety.
The tales are peppered with the trademark humour of Khushboo Shah – witty, perfectly timed and seamlessly embedded within the narrative flow. What appealed to me the most is the writer’s ability to play with words and spout wise quips that are completely situational on the surface, yet convey a timeless wealth of meaning. To quote a few which have stayed with me:
* We’re all on the same page.
* It is easier to see a change in others than in ourselves.
* A lot of things in life are unclear when we start.
* Life is all about learning to identify patterns.
* Friend against freedom is a tough deal.
* Sometimes after your eyes have rained, you find a rainbow in your heart.
These words make the reader pause, introspect and savour their beauty. And for the budding, impressionable readers, they are nothing short of enduring life lessons!
Through the fast-paced events unfolding in Princess Nirzari’s life within a book, we catch glimpses of certain very relevant, contemporary issues such as the dos and don’ts of urban planning and construction which the King is passionate about. Again, a simple game of chess highlights the perennial arrogance and supremacy of white over black – the Queen of Shadow’s voice had been silenced; she was condemned as someone having no value at all. The author has done well to broach these subjects in a simple, fun way to sensitise our young readers and prepare them for life. Not surprising, since, by her own admission, she has her five-year-old muse-cum-mentor at home!
I wished to see a little more of the cheeky gadget geek Amarjeet, though…and maybe some harmless verbal duel and banter between the siblings.
The book is dotted with marvellous short verses and black-and-white illustrations which, again, have been created by the author herself – an inspiring extension of her artistic prowess. Throughout the read, we are treated to numerous pearls of wisdom that lie underneath the wisecracks and guffaws. Khushboo Shah’s novella, with its Alice and Narnia undertones, are guaranteed to gratify both the adult and the juvenile reader with its deft word weaving and extraordinarily delightful premise. Go pick up the book…these 113 pages of fantasy, folklore and eternal verities will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy all over!