Book Review – Dancers in the Dark: In the darkness of her skin, she found light By Ejaz Ahamed

About the Author – Born in India, Ejaz Ahamed lived in the UAE until early adulthood before moving to Australia. His passion for exploring social injustices and racial inequalities influenced his writings. In the past, he wrote poems about life, the world and its complexities. This is his debut novel. After studying at The University of Melbourne, he spent many years travelling to broaden his views of the world.

About The Book – Extreme poverty wasn’t the only impediment in seven-year-old Kalki’s life. Her pitch-black dark skin exacerbated her plight, making her a centre of ridicule in her village. Believing he’s the cause of his sister’s affliction, Karthi joins Kalki’s side as they become consumed with ways to whiten her skin. But the determined siblings invite more trouble and lose their mother’s life savings. Their journey to retrieve the money brings together a mysterious ally, an exotic festival, a divine intervention and a con artist changing their destinies in ways no one could have predicted.

Book Review – Some of the significant themes of literary writing have been those that touch human lives and influence a large number of people at once. “Dancers in the Dark: In the darkness of her skin, she found light” by Ejaz Ahamed is one of the ground-breaking works that resonate with the themes that have been universal to human existence and have formed an integral part of literary writing. Through the portrayal of those themes through the eyes of innocent children and grown-ups, Ahamed stings the readers into pensive moods and makes them look inside themselves before being judgemental about what they see on the outside.

The heart of “Dancers in the Dark” revolves around Kalki and her brother Karthi, who deeply cares for his sister and is determined to alleviate her suffering. In their innocence and desperation, they believe that lightening Kalki’s skin will improve her life. This heartfelt portrayal of sibling love and sacrifice tugs at the heartstrings, as Karthi’s unwavering support for Kalki is both touching and heartwarming. Their bond as siblings and sticking to each other in all challenges highlight the power of human connection and its superiority over materialistic things, which Laxmi misses in her life.

Ahamed adeptly portrays the societal pressures and prejudices that surround people with darker skin tones, providing a powerful commentary on colorism and its impact on individuals’ self-esteem. As readers journey alongside Kalki and Karthi, they witness the emotional toll that society’s judgment takes on them, forcing them to grapple with their own identity and self-worth. This exploration of identity and self-acceptance forms the emotional core of the novel, making it a compelling and relevant read. “Dancers in the Dark” harps upon this, and the arrival of tourists further hints at the colonized mindset of the people even in the era of independence. Throughout the novel, the theme of societal prejudice against dark-skinned individuals is explored with sensitivity and insight. Kalki’s experiences are a stark reminder of the discrimination faced by millions around the world based on their skin color. Ahamed skillfully portrays the impact of such discrimination on a young child’s psyche, making readers reflect on the damaging effects of colorism and the urgent need for societal change.

The novel also introduces an intriguing and diverse cast of characters that shape Kalki and Karthi’s fate. Among them is a mysterious ally who appears at crucial moments, offering them hope and guidance. Additionally, the introduction of an exotic festival and divine intervention adds a touch of magic and mysticism to the story, enhancing the sense of wonder and unpredictability. Although it is a work of fiction, these events reinforce the faith of human beings in the presence of a superpower that will guide and protect one from unjust and wrongs of any kind. Ahamed’s prose is evocative and poetic, painting vivid pictures of the characters’ emotions and the world they inhabit. The author skillfully intertwines cultural elements and traditions, bringing the setting to life and immersing readers in the beauty and complexities of rural life. The narrative is rich with sensory details, making readers feel like they are walking alongside Kalki and Karthi on their arduous journey.

Moreover, “Dancers in the Dark” tackles themes of hope, resilience, and the power of determination to overcome adversity. As Kalki and Karthi face various challenges, they discover an inner strength they never knew they possessed. Their transformation throughout the story is inspiring and uplifting, reminding readers that even in the darkest times, one can find light within themselves. One of the book’s strengths is the way it explores the unpredictability of life and the influence of fate. As Kalki and Karthi’s destinies intertwine with those of other characters, the novel highlights the interconnectedness of human lives and how one person’s actions can have far-reaching consequences. This interconnectedness adds depth and complexity to the narrative, keeping readers engaged and invested in the outcome.

Divine intervention also plays a significant role in the narrative, adding a mystical and spiritual dimension to the story. As the siblings embark on a pilgrimage seeking a miracle, they encounter moments of transcendence that challenge their perceptions of the world and their place in it.

This book is recommended to readers of both fiction and non-fiction for the eye-opening effects that it has and the power it exerts on making people understand that even the swiftly digitizing where the external is being given more and more importance, it is the internal qualities of a person that need to be looked at and thought about. This book would also help people understand the darkness that exists in people’s minds and hearts, which is not limited to the color of a person’s skin. These themes and subjects make “Dancers of the Dark” a personal writing which has universal significance and the power to change lives.

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