Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Adivasi Will not Dance- Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

On my visit to the Walking BookFair a fortnight back, I picked out this beauty for sheerly one reason- its name- 'The Adivasi will not Dance'. It is an inquisitive title, which makes utmost sense after you read the book.

The book comprises of stories inspired from a tribe called Santhals, the stories speak about their plight, traditions, lifestyle and strength. The author has used these stories as a platform to propagate the Santhal tribe and let masses know how it is always the downcast that is trampled upon, and why it is always their sacrifice which reaps benefits to the upper classes. While I speak of it as a direct and serious issue, the stories convey more than that. They are light to read, very interestingly written, and when you drift towards the end, you get the message crisp and clear, and I bet if you can’t relate the title to every story you read. He has put them together in an enlightening way, such that it brings a very new and different outlook towards writing and reading and the reason that the stories feel proper is because they come from the man himself- Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Pakaur, Santhal Pargana, and a deserving recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar, 2015.

While there is no single character which is a favorite here, there are definitely stories which have intrigued me, and after completing them I just felt like I wanted more. To start with, 'They Eat Meat' showcased the scenario which happens in most communities. The meat eating people are considered 'not pure enough' and so to survive in this community the meat loving people have to give up on their food traditions altogether. I liked this story because it showed two aspects of the society we live in- the diversity on the grounds of food and traditions and the integrity on the conditions of security of our own people. As we move ahead, the stories focus the Santhal women clan. They have been portrayed as an epitome of strength and suffering together. Written in a very raw demeanor are the conditions and situations these Santhal women face and continue to survive. 'November is the month of migrations' begins the start of the struggle for a Santhali female. With a very impactful writing, it just leaves heaviness in your heart. Then there is- 'Eating with the Enemy' which shows how there are times when you forget all the animosity between and sit together for the meal, just for the sake of it, sacrificing your soul. 'Blue Baby' and 'Baso-Jhi' carry high emotional quotient. My most favorite ones came right at the end- 'Merely a whore' and 'The Adivasi will not dance'. While the former shows that for a Santhali woman who is also a prostitute, 'love' does not exist in the dictionary of life, the latter truly explains the title. Why would an adivasi dance to the beats, when he is at the stake of losing his land? And the upper classes, the zamindars want them to dance on the same land they are going to rip them off. Be it a Santhal woman, a child, a little girl or a man- for the society that we live in; they have been shown as downcast people devoid of respect and treated like one. And, therefore the title stands ruefully right and explanatory.

“We are like Toys- someone presses our 'ON' Button, or turns a key in our backsides. And we Santhals start beating rhythms on our Tamak and Tumdak, or blowing tunes on our Tiriyo while someone snatches away our dancing grounds.” - The Adivasi Will not Dance

It is not only the stories which impress, but also the writing style. In a very long time, I don’t think I have come across a book so wonderfully bounded. Bounded by words so good, they tug at your heart. Very earthy at places, expressing shallowness, rawness and a sense of emotion which doesn’t let a tear drop from your eye but will bruise your heart. It is that good!
Must, Must Read!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi, Nupur. Thank you for reviewing The Adivasi Will Not Dance on your beautiful blog. I just love the name of your blog: Flip A Leaf.

    I am really happy that you liked the stories in The Adivasi Will Not Dance. And I am also happy to see the photograph in which you have sandwiched The Adivasi Will Not Dance between V. S. Naipaul's A Writer's People and Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth! :-)

    I would like to point out just one thing. The story, Merely A Whore, is not exactly about any community. The heroine, Sona, she has not been given a community. She has just one community and that is her professional community, that she is a prostitute. And that is what this story is about, about how a woman like Sona - or any woman in Sona's position, a woman who is used merely as an object - does not really have an agency, how she does not have the freedom or the right to even fall in love. Anyway, I am happy that you liked Merely A Whore. It was really difficult to re-write this story. I say re-write because Merely A Whore was first published in 2013 in an online journal, and the new version in The Adivasi Will Not Dance is absolutely different from the original 2013 version.

    I will also thank you for buying The Adivasi Will Not Dance from the book truck of Walking BookFairs run by Satabdi and Akshaya. At a time when physical book stores are closing down and we seem to be doing all our book shopping from online bookstores, what Satabdi and Akshaya are doing - bringing books to us; real, tangible books in the real time - is very commendable.

    Once again, thank you so much, Nupur. Each positive feedback I receive from my readers is an encouragement, an award in itself. They seem to tell me that yes, I am being accepted, my writing is being accepted. Thank you for accepting my writing.


    Pakur, Santhal Pargana, Jharkhand

    P.S. I am sorry I deleted the earlier version of my comment because I found a spelling error in it. I am such a spelling Nazi! But really, I feel a bit embarrassed after I realise that a message I have sent has an error in it. OK, I am rambling now, I better stop here. Wish you a happy Basant Panchami. :-)

  3. Thank you so much for your comments and compliments. I really enjoyed reading the book. Yes, you are right 'Merely a whore' was not about any community, I tried to feature the same about it. :)

    Thank you once again for all the appreciation. I hope to read you soon again. 👍🏼

  4. What you're saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I'm sure you'll reach so many people with what you've got to say.

  5. Hey keep posting such good and meaningful articles.


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