by R K Biswas

THE ADIVASI WILL NOT DANCE - COVER FOR KITAAB INTERVIEWHansda Sowvendra Sekhar’s debut book, The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baski, had ushered in a new voice into the Indian English literary scene. A voice steeped in the soil of its origin—the land of Santhals—and refreshing in its clear visualisations of his people. His second book, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, published by Speaking Tiger does not disappoint. In fact, being a collection of short stories, this book feels (at first) like a Santhali Thali meal, with an array of ten (Santhali) dishes, each giving off its own aroma, distinct from the rest, strong or mild, sweet or over powering, creating together, a hearty experience. The colours, the sights, sounds and scents, the Santhali spirit—put together, they make up the essence of Hansda’s prose.

In the first story, “They Eat Meat”, the Soren family have to go and live in Vadodara, Gujarat, when Biram Soren, a high ranking officer, is transferred. The Sorens overcome the restrictive food habits of a vegetarian city, and even grow to love the place. But soon they are forced to confront the spectres of religious and caste divides, especially in the aftermath of the Godhra killings. And this is where this heartwarming story charmingly displays the indomitable human spirit of ordinary Indians.

“Sons” is the story of two women whose grandfathers were brothers. Like the two mango trees in the narrator’s house, one nurtured but fruitless, and the other left to grow wild but with the sweetest mangoes in their locality, their sons grow into manhood. Told in a conversational style, as if the narrator is relaying the events unfolding before him, “Sons” takes us straight into the bustle of a middle class Santhal home.

by RK Biswas

Photo by Sanjay Kumar Mahato of Sowvendra 1What is your new book about? Tell us about the inspiration/s behind the stories?

My new book, The Adivasi Will Not Dance, is a collection of ten short stories. At least two stories in this collection are a decade old. Eight stories were published at different places at different times. Some have been edited and modified. I have re-written some from scratch. I was just inspired by the things I saw around me.

The title The Adivasi Will Not Dance is not placid. It is thought-provoking and even politically charged. Does it indicate the collective mood of all the stories?

Some stories have politics. Some stories are based on issues. I think that’s all I will say for now.

Regarding your critically acclaimed The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey you had once said that Della is your favourite character. Are you planning on another book with her as the lead?

Yes, Della is my favourite character from The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey. I would like to do a book with Della in the lead. But I do not really know when I am going to do this book. All I can say now is that I am not going to write a book with Della in the lead just because she happens to be my favourite character or just because someone wants to see more of Della, Della in the lead, etc. If I write a book with Della in the lead, that book will have a purpose, Della will have a purpose. It won’t be a book just for the sake of having a book on Della. It will be a well-thought out book, a book I will invest a lot of time in. So, there is still time before I write a book with Della in the lead.