Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: The Temple Is Not My Father by Rasana Atreya

The oldest profession in the world prostitution, takes on a serious side in India, when one reads cases and books on what is called the devadasi system in India, which is rooted in religion. In Rasana Atreya’s new Novelette, The Temple Is Not My Father, the reader encounters the shocking realities of how, the system is both used and abused by bigoted family instruments which can bring up an immense amount of anger towards those, who force women to corners of society, where life is but a bleak existence of no hope.

Godavari, named after a river in India, is the third daughter of parents who have had five daughters, which in itself is ominous, because, only a son is an auspicious addition to a family. She has been sold at seven to the temple by her father, where like many devadasis in India, is wedded to Goddess Yellamma. Frequented by one after another man, on a daily basis, she becomes pregnant and bears a baby girl, Sreeja. Godavari’s mother has shown much resistance to this, but with an adamant husband to manage, she has lost to him. But, she decides not to allow, the plight of her daughter to be repeated with her granddaughter. By willing all her wealth to Godavari, she has raised the wrath of all her children, including her son, who ought to have inherited the wealth of his mother. Shunned by family except a single sister, Krishna, Godavari lives a solitary life with her daughter, in a house inherited from her mother.

Soon, their solitary life is interjected by two delightful girls, Neeraja and Vanaja, who have been sent by their chastity-obsessed parents living in the US to India, to live and study with their grandmother, for fear that the girls now coming of age may give in to poor moral standards existing in the US, and date and mate with boys! A great relief for Sreeja, daughter of Godavari, the little girl begins to know the value of friendship, with the two girls and also learn from them. But their grandmother is not happy at the association and stops the girls from coming. When finally they are able to break loose, it is only to tell Godavari that they would be sent away to boarding school so that they can be kept away from social outcasts like Godavari and little Sreeja. This is a blow to Godavari.

In the mean time, before the two girls leave, an NGO run by Asha garu takes little Sreeja away from her mother, and gives her for adoption, so that Sreeja can have a normal life, ands not as a shunned by society, uneducated daughter of a devadasi. This breaks Godavari’s heart but she survives the pain by focussing on changing her life too. She too joins an NGO and begins to learn computer and is guided into a life of saving children from prostitution. This is how she meets Raji, who is mimed from the torture of being given to prostitution at the age of seven. It takes Godavari three years to make the girl speak even a single sentence.
The book ends with a typical Rasana Atreya sign off – a tremendous twist in the story most readers would never have imagined in their wildest dreams.

Tibor Jones Asia Prize nominee, 2012, Rasana Atreya, is not only a story teller par excellence now. She is a Brand. She writes stories from the heart of India based on social structure that continues to exist despite its urbanization. She is disturbed by this and no reader can put her book down without feeling waves of disturbance themselves. Her writings rise the bile in your belly and make you want to go and change the system and yet, it is true, that perhaps those who stand to protect us, actually are the perpetrators themselves. Whether, it is The Temple is Not My Father, or her book which was nominated for the Tibor Jones Asia Prize, Tell A Thousand Lies, Rasana Atreya, jars you to sit up and think.

And the twists and turns of her stories are at once, a great art in story telling at the same time, very natural to Rasana Atreya as an author and a Brand.

You can read her book, by downloading it here:

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