I went looking for Panther the very same day I had finished reading The Amazing Racist (the debut novel) by Chhimi Tenduf-La. I wasn’t able to find it since it was Sunday but rushed te very next day in the morning to get it! Having heard amazing reviews of both books by a friend, I knew I had to own and read both books.
Of course, once I started, I kept on reading… well late into the night and in two days I had finished it. And that I must say was the worst part of the book – that I finished reading such a rich book and was utterly greedy that there wasn’t more to be read!
Panther by Chhimi Tenduf-La is a different book. His writing style hasn’t changed so much from his debut book. Sentences were still short, phrased well and easy to read; his sense of humour was thankfully, still there and was an absolute delight to read. However, Tenduf-La, in Panther addresses an ever so important topic, that of the psyche of an ex-child soldier– of a fictional terrorist organisation known as the Panther. Personally, I loved that fact that Tenduf-La decided to ‘invent’ a terrorist group rather than write on any other existing organization. Whereas, it is clear that he is writing about the war in Sri Lanka, I appreciate the fact that he invented Panther. A few writers in the past have tried to write about the different facets of the Sri Lankan civil war and either lack of proper research or bias in their writing have in the past ruined stories that could have otherwise had potential to be much greater. By bringing about ‘Panther’, Tenduf-La has indeed given due respect to the victims, survivors and indeed everyone else who lived through the war.
Panther, deals with Prabu, an ex- child solider who having gone through a phase of rehabilitation, arrives in Colombo to start schooling. It’s so touching to see that Prabu’s concerns of being in Colombo and fitting in are what sometimes maybe the same as a normal child coming from the rural areas of Sri Lanka. Tenduf-La has done a super job of letting the reader glimpse into the complications of a child trying to fit in with complexities of being not just from the rural areas but also an ex-child soldier.
I found the elements of the story authentic and the characters not only alive but very believable. Panther illustrates that there’s so much to be done for the children who were affected by the war, both the child solders as well as the ones who had to live with it. The feelings of reconciliation and the difficulties of reconciling North and South was so justly and so well portrayed.
Chhimi already proved his worth in the Amazing Racist and has gone on to show that he is beyond just a ‘debut-hit’ authour. In the local scene, Tenduf-La is now one of my favourite authours. He has a unique talent to not only write diverse stories but also give respect to the characters he is writing about.
Panther is definitely a book you should read and that being said – I’m waiting for Tenduf-La’s next! Hopefully it’s not going to be a very long wait!