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‘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 very dancing grounds. Tell me, am I wrong?’ writes Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar in this collection of stories, set in the fecund, mineral-rich hinterland and the ever-expanding, squalid towns of Jharkhand.

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar breathes life into a set of characters who are as robustly flesh and blood as the soil from which they spring, where they live, and into which they must sometimes bleed.

Troupe-master Mangal Murmu refuses to perform for the President of India and is beaten down; Suren and Gita, a love-blind couple, wait with quiet desperation outside a neonatal ward, hoping—for different reasons—that their blue baby will turn pink; Panmuni and Biram Soren move to Vadodara in the autumn of their lives, only to find that they must stop eating meat to be accepted as citizens; Baso-jhi is the life of the village of Sarjomdih but, when people begin to die for no apparent reason, a ghastly accusation from her past comes back to haunt her; and Talamai Kisku of the Santhal Pargana, migrating to West Bengal in search of work, must sleep with a policeman for fifty rupees and two cold bread pakoras.

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar is a medical officer with the government of Jharkhand. His stories and articles have been published in Indian Literature, The Statesman, The Asian Age, Good Housekeeping, Northeast Review, The Four Quarters Magazine, Earthen Lamp Journal, Alchemy: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories II and The Times of India. He has also written a novel, The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey.

The Adivasi Will Not Dance is a mature, passionate, intensely political book of stories, made up of the very stuff of life. It establishes Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar as one of our most important contemporary writers.

Speaking Tiger, 2015, Hardback, Rs 399.00

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