I love birds. From there stems my desire to pick up any book with a story of a bird, with birds on the cover or in any of its pages. This one attracted me with the soft and subtle birds on its cover. The colour combination was pleasingly earthy and it stood out among all the brighter coloured books. There was something serene about it. I chanced upon it at an organization’s clearance sale when they were closing shop. And how lucky am I that it awaited me!
The Magical Web Bridge is written by Geeta Dharmarajan, illustrated by Sonali Biswas and published by Katha in 2004. It is about a baya bird who lives in a city by the sea with Baya Ma, little Bayas, the palm tree, the spider, the squirrel and all the little creatures that there are. No mammals here, only insects and birds. Baya has known that on the other side of the sea is a city where the best baya birds live, and who make the best nests. He wants to meet them. So he dreams of traveling to the other side to be in this beautiful place that he has only heard of. But how?
The conversations between baya, Baya Ma and the spider is much similar to the human voice and choices of life. While baya and the spider want to be adventurous and migrate to the city on the other side of the endless sea, Baya Ma wants to stay back and make her city just as beautiful. Commitment to the dream even within the hardest of challenges threads the story. A bird and a spider weaving a bridge across the sea. That’s a mighty task! But in it we find the vivid joy of teamwork, friendship and hope that helps in achievement. Conviction holds them together, combined with ability.
I like how Geeta consciously chooses a female spider, breaking the myth that men are exploratory while women are homebound. Given that the book was written almost two decades ago, this seems duly significant.
Also, I wonder why the author chooses the land on both sides of the sea to be cities. I am trying to think further how the urban connotation can be related to the narrative, and it is hard since the illustrations are explicitly that of nature and beautifully non-urban. The pictures are so lovable, every page of it. Interestingly, the sense of colour is unlike the conventional brightness associated with children’s books. The shades of brown, off-white, crimson, green and blue comes with their difference, adding great value. And best is the tenderness, just like a bird.
This book can be read by fluent readers, it can be read aloud and read out loudly to anyone who likes to listen to stories. As much as I am sad to not have found the book earlier, I am happy as much that it is around me now and to have read it out to children and adults at different times and places. Do get a copy. It is precious and deserves to find a nest in every bookshelf.