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The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey

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The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey, Hansda Sowvendra Sekhar, book reviewThe Santhal villages of Bengal and Jharkhand remain much of a mystery for most readers. Visitors to Shantiniketan admire their art and silver work or glimpse them in Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri. What is known is that the women are liberated, beautiful and drink haandi and that the Santhals are a very private, fiercely independent people. Hansda Sowvendra Sekhar’s debut novel takes us into the heart of the villages and into the stories behind their lives. Witchcraft or dahni-bidya is rife and women are rumoured to feast on human livers. In the middle of this comes the story of Rupi Baskey who delivers a child in the paddy field – an opening that reminds me of another novel, possibly Sarita Mandanna’s Tiger Hills, but one which seems to work here, though the story of Rupi gets diverted to the back story of her family, her step mother and her mother in law Purki.


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