Book review: The Earthspinner by Anuradha Roy
Another little gem from Anuradha Roy, THE EARTHSPINNER (Hachette Books) traces the troubled path of potter Elango in the Kummarrapet basti somewhere in the Deccan,. He has the temerity to fall in love with a Muslim girl Zohra, and what`s more, to sculpt a large terracotta horse as attribute to what they think is their clandestine love. The horse is a thing of beauty and Elango gets Zohra`s blind calligrapher grandfather to write in Urdu all along its body, rendering it even more an object of magic.
The book contains the stories of the narrator Sara and her family, how she grows apart from her sister Tia, how their father dies, leaving them lost and forever grieving. There are the stories of the eternally simmering suspicions between people of different communities in the basti. There are beautiful descriptions of potters at work. There is the story of Sara`s years as a student in England. There is the evocative story of Chinna the dog, who had been Tashi in an earlier time and whose previous owner is still searching for him.
But at the core, there is the Hindu-Muslim relationship, and of course the majority community will not countenance such a thing. And so peace is broken into a million little shards, clay pots are shattered.
How they attempt to wreck the lives of Elango and Zohra, as watched and narrated by Elango`s young apprentice of sorts Sara, is a tale typical of Roy. You know how it`s going but the trajectory of the story still surprises you. You wish for some distance between reader and characters so you don’t have to feel for them, but of course you are drawn into the maelstrom of events helplessly, compulsively.
Every few years Anuradha Roy gives us these poignant stories and as a blurb on the cover of the book says: this is why you read fiction at all.