Updated: Jan 25, 2022
There is so much that I want to say about this book, that I do not know where to begin.
How does one take the black colour of grief, mix it with the grey of climate change, the fading brown-green of dusty, dying trees and blend then into the bright, hopeful green of a new, sprouting leaf?
As I read ‘SAVIE AND THE MEMORY KEEPER’ by Bijal Vachharajani , I was wrapped in a cocoon of all these colours, traversing along with the flow of the author’s easy, current language, knotting myself while marvelling at her connections and allegories linking humans and nature, nodding along sagely to the truths laid out on the pages, while wiping a tear discreetly as the words tugged at my heart strings. I put down this book and knew what I wanted to say…
This book is a keeper!!!
The story starts out with Savi (short for Savitri), her sister and mother moving to Shajarpur after losing her father. Along with the household paraphernalia comes a whole range of house plants which belonged to her Dad. As each one handles their grief in different ways, Savi finds solace in her father’s plants and a cat named Bekku.
She hates the perfect weather of the city, the strange samosa shaped school, the tiny apartment, her classmates, both snobby and nerdy.
However, she finds a deep connection to Tree…a huge banyan ficus, in the school compound and when she is forced to join the school Eco-club, Savi finds herself beginning to understand plants, her own deep connection to them and her role as a nature protector.
Much like Tree, holding the air, the earth and he understory together, SAVI AND THE MEMORY KEEPER beautifully links loss, climate change and connection with nature. Yet much like the understory, the book has touched on many themes, through little stories which run beneath the main one…all connected, all supporting the other, all vital to the plot as well as to the readers understanding. This is the power of Bijal Vachharajani’s writing.
From the different ways people cope with loss, the distractions of social media, normalising talking to a counsellor, weighing the value of friendships, awareness of the plight of those less fortunate than us, the futile ‘plant more trees’ campaigns by politicians and school children( I cannot express how delighted this particular reference made me…it is a bug bear as schools postulate how ‘green’ their students are because they planted a sapling, recycled plastic etc etc or worst still made a chart to profess the same…meaningless green claims!), the cycle of life and death, casual references to Maharukh sirs ‘partner’, materialistic human’s who take, take, take with no concern for the consequences, corporate manipulations, the deep connection of indigenous people have with nature, the balance between the environment and development, all topped with a sprinkling of magic-realism.
I marvelled at the tree network, much like human society…reaching out helping, supporting, guiding and I could not help but think that the old adage ‘It takes a village’, goes beyond human society.
References like this will make a reader want to go and read some more, look up, research. I love books that do that as it leads children to further reading.
What I love more than anything else is how Bijal Vachharajani nudges us to see just how deep the human-nature connection runs, and in addition to all that it offers us, nature brings solace, belonging, peace. This is what is natural to human existence, if only we take the time to read the messages nature sends us.
Rajiv Eipe’s stunning cover and art dotted through the book, set the tone just right.
The only part of the book that I questioned was the touch of fantasy at the end, the ‘Very cool and hep people’ were a bit too similar to the characters from the book ‘What Maya Saw’, and I wondered if a more realistic consequence would send a strong message.
As I turned the last page I couldn’t help but reflect…Do we encourage this sense of wonder in children? Do we draw their attention to the littlest things around us? Do we need those apps and games with meaningless rewards, when the wonder and magic is all around us…stopping to look, will offer priceless rewards.
It’s actually pretty simple. To remember nature, to go back to our roots, metaphorically and literally speaking, we need to be in touch with nature.” - Sana, Savi and the Memory Keeper.
Remember when you were a child?
And climbed your first tree?
Smelled a rose for the first time?
Ate your first mango?
Heard a bird chirp outside the window?
Stood in awe as an elephant passed you in the forest?
Saw the waves on the sand
For the first tiem?
That wonder. That sense of wonder.
Jolt your memory…read this book.
I have so many little bits n bobs marked...in the brightest colours of the joy this book brings.