Trust Me, I'm a Storyteller

November 27, 2012

Dancing to the Flute

Dancing to the Flute

Manisha Jolie Amin

Allen & Unwin 2012

The power of music to reach people is never far from the surface of Dancing to the Flute. The brilliantly conceived structure parallels the stages of the Indian raga. The rhythm and pattern follow those of the raga as the narrative unfolds. The poetic language transforms the commonplace as the reader travels along with Kalu, the protagonist.

Dancing to the Flute has the magic and pathos of myth and enchantment, yet the human condition and the transformative quality of music are always at its centre. The yearning, the secret dreams and the shared bonds of those who are deeply connected by the ties that bind them are the catalyst for the metaphysical effects of Kalu’s flute. The world of Kalu and those with whom he comes in contact,  Vaid, Guruji, Bal, Ganga ba, Malti, Martin, Ashwin and others who inhabit the villages, is keenly wrought and ever evocative.

At all times, the reader is there at the centre of Kalu’s world, engaged by his quirky irrepressible nature, moved by his grief, captivated by his inquiring mind and gift for making music. As Kalu grows older and wiser, he discovers the incandescent and a higher purpose to this extraordinary gift. Just as Guruji discovers the true gift he has in his apprentice. As Kalu’s world expands, he learns that no matter how difficult life is, there is no going back – one can only go forward.

Just as the future appears Inevitable, however, the narrative twists and turns to another possibility.

Dancing to the Flute is an original and fine literary work, Amin is undoubtedly a skilled storyteller—there are stories within stories—and I found myself irresistibly drawn in and transported to Hastinapore, Guruji’s house and land on the way to Tanakpur, Ahmedabad and other villages of Gujurat, India and on to London.

Amin’s novel is right up there with the best I’ve read this year.

Manisha Jolie Amin

a raga is the projection of the artist’s inner spirit, a manifestation of his most profound sentiments and sensibilities brought forth through tones and melodies. The musician must breathe life into each raga as he unfolds and expands it … each note pulsates with life and the raga becomes vibrant and incandescent.” Ravi Shankar.

 Reviews:

UTS

Indian Herald

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