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Book Review: Dance of the Spirits by Sanjai Velayudhan

Supernatural is a genre that attracts the attention readers worldwide. Indian folklore is richly blessed with tales of supernatural galore. There are many rituals and customs in different parts of the country which cannot be judged by the metrics of modernism.

‘Dance of the Spirits’ by Sanjai Velayudhan is a book which deals with one such ritual from coastal Kerala. ‘Theyyam’ is a ritualistic dance theatre that dates back several eras. ‘Theyyam’ involves ritualistic worship of deities in the open-air, and includes supernatural elements, mythical figures and men dressed in the form of animals. The dancers go into a state of trance during the performance and thus come closer to God.

This mystical dance form sort of sets the mood of the story. In the backdrop of ‘Theyyam’ the author gives us a message that one must always pay for their actions. This intriguing thought is explored in the 300-odd pages where we come across Krish and Maria.

Maria is a research scholar from the US who comes to India to study ‘Theyyam’. In course of time she meets Krish, who is also in town to write a book on the ancient dance form. They are both attracted to each other and the association takes a turn – for better or for worse, is for you to find out in the book.

Instead of the ‘whodunnit’ mystery format, the author went for the thriller mode, which makes the book more endearing. It is more engaging to read a narrative when you know the end but want to find out how events unfold leading to the ultimate climax.

The book gives us an insight into the myriad cultures and rituals that are still practised in the country. It allows us to delve deep into the traditions, alive for centuries, and finally delivers the message that it is not possible to change one’s destiny.

The language is simple and lucid, packed full with emotions. The beautiful descriptions of the ancient traditions will surely captivate the reader. The pages turn fast as the narrative moves at a brisk pace. It is indeed a fascinating work in the domain of supernatural writing in India.

Overall, ‘Dance of the Spirits’ by Sanjai Velayudhan qualifies as an apt book to read on a long train journey, or on a lazy Sunday afternoon, for a fantastic experience.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

P.S. I received a review copy of the book from Leadstart Publishing


DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

Mulla Periyar – Life be DAMned

Water, water everywhere. Not a drop to share! As human civilization progresses, natural resources face the challenge of extinction. Geographical borders now decide the fate of bounties that should belong to the biosphere as a whole. Sizable majority of God’s own country  fear extinction now, thanks to a century old dam which has developed cracks. So, why not rebuild and renovate the existing structure to save lives? Well, Mullaperiyar faces test of political waters.

Mullaperiyar Dam, constructed more than a century ago has been a center of debate for over two decades now. Although, the bigger beneficiary of this dam has always been the state of Tamil Nadu, complaints of insufficient water being released by its neighbour have surfaced before too. Built in Kerala, on the river Mullayar and its tributary Periyar, water is mostly diverted from this 136 feet dam eastwards to Tamil Nadu.

Courtesy Jamewils dot blogsport dot com

A Supreme Court order in 2006 instructed Govt of Kerala to raise the height of the dam to 142feet, which was overridden  by the legislature by bringing in a law. Govt of Tamil Nadu challenged this in court and the matter is subjudice currently. The debate currently is not about the volume of water to be shared or the storage capacity of the dam. It is about safety of 3.5 million Keralites who live downstream of the dam site.

Govt of Tamil Nadu’s banning the film DAM999 clearly shows how jittery the state is on this issue. The Chief Minister’s claim “the dam is as good as new” met with uproar on social media platforms – reports of cracks developing in the dam, how water has been gushing out of those cracks and also pictures and videos showing the pitiable state of the dam site have been floating on wires for long.

Studies done by IIT Delhi, IIT Roorkee and IISc Bangalore have projected the vulnerability of the people of Kerala from the “hydrologically unsafe” dam. Tamil Nadu fought those claims with its own government engineers claiming the dam is safe and sound. Clearly, waters of Periyar have been polluted by politics.

TN and Kerala CM

Courtesy The Hindu

Leaders, known for their knack of fishing in troubled waters have already began their job. While both state governments have been attending Delhi durbar to make the Central govt party to their cause, local politicians have already observed a day of Hartal for the cause. Ethnic politics have started too, brazenly demonstrated by ban on Tamil Nadu bound buses from Kerala, in several parts of TN. And while state MPs and MLAs are busy voicing their support to the cause of their state, national parties like BJP and their supporters have been accusing people of making a mountain out of molehill.

Amidst all these, Mullaperiyar was increasingly shaken by earthquakes in the last 22 months, rousing fear among people even more. That the ongoing “movement” was not to malign the state of Tamil Nadu or deny it of its share of water, is clearly demonstrated by the slogan “Water for Tamil Nadu, Safety for Kerala”. Why then is the Chief Minister of TN not willing to send out a message of conciliation and humanity to people on the other side of the border? After all, they are citizens of the same nation.

Or is it easy to sacrifice millions of lives for staying in power? Life be DAMned, God knows the answer.


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