She danced to the demon’s death
And cried: play the drum, sound the gong
Dancing, she lost her own breath
And died: some dances tap to the song
Only for a moment, and go wrong.
That’s the denouement of one of the characters of Mridula Garg’s new novel—she dances and dies. Ratnabai begins as a minor character, a household help in an upmarket middle class neighbourhood in New Delhi, in the novel Vasu ka Kutum, and ends up with one of the most powerful scenes in the novel—performing the dance of death, more vigorous than Nataraj himself, as the author puts it. She dances on hearing about the death of another allegedly minor character, Sapotra, who is a builder, and who is always a reported character, never seen.
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