Dancers in the Dark by Ejaz Ahamad: Xenophobia through the Ages | Book Review

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Dancers in the Dark

Neelam Sharma
Author: Ejaz Ahamad


A story so powerful that it will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in revulsion! The sad but true colour of one’s skin is a strong and despondently decisive factor in their fate, along with poverty. Dancers in the Dark by Ejaz Ahamad is a story that circles around this societal stigma and tries to explain the underlying facets associated with it. It also sheds light on the harsh behaviours meted out upon the “third gender,” aka the LGBTQ+ community, along with all other such clans.

Do you believe the colour of one’s skin is the only determining factor in one’s character and personality? Is being white-skinned or light-skinned so important that one simply does not acknowledge one’s inner character at all? Is racism such a grave reality that it has bottled up and gobbled up all the possible good there is for any person? And yes, who is it who decides the societal norms—acceptance or non-acceptance of genders? Why is this different and unjust treatment forever given to the “third gender”?

As these questions rankled my mind today while I sat finishing my latest read, “Dancers in the Dark” by Ejaz Ahamad, I wanted to share with you all my thoughts on this powerful narrative centered not only around colour conflicts but also the orthodox societal mentalities that continue to rule our generation even today. Societal discrimination, familial bonds, relentless buoyancy, chauvinism, intolerance, and colour revulsion—all of this has been brilliantly woven around the story of Karthi and his sister Kalki, as well as Shreyas, who is differently perceived by our society, and Kalki, who is quite dark-skinned and is shunned by all around for this factor.

Considering this to be the responsibility owing to his ill fate, Karthi, who is hell-bent on reversing this and embarking upon a quest to lighten her dark skin, gets into what comes their way in their pursuit of a solution and how they deal with the entire situation, embarking on a journey where they come to terms with the harsh realities of society.

A story that not only highlighted the issues faced by the different strata of society but much more, I would be surprised if you did not sit back and realize your very own blessings of life by delving into this one. I could feel the pain of these characters being ostracized and totally relate to it in such a manner that even though it was not exactly the same as what I faced, it was deja vu as far as emotion was concerned.

The fact that Kalki’s mother, Yashodha, was mistreated, made fun of, and ridiculed owing to her daughter’s complexion made me stiffen in revulsion. Also, it was equally tough to see how Kalki’s brother Karthi somehow developed this tendency to blame himself for all his sister’s troubles.

Yes, Shreyas’s plight was equally painful. Being different was surely no reason for him to blame himself for his family’s predicament. It is actually sad to see the manner in which society usually ostracizes the LGBTQ+ community. Neither do they have a status quo, nor are they ever able to live a normal life, caught up in the vicious circle of self-blame, ostracizing, and eventually a sad fate.

Some characters are young and some are old, and yet the magnitude of what they are facing is fully dawning upon them. Not only that, but they are also trying their absolute best to lock horns and fight this travesty of society. Ejaz has not only plotted the characters brilliantly, but he has created this enigmatically closer to a real-life scenario, where you will totally relate to not only Kalki’s plight but also feel the pain of Karthi’s struggles as he grapples with possible ways to undo his sister’s plight. Also, it was equally daunting to come to terms with Shreyas’s whole standpoint. Witnessing his suffering was intimidating. I was on the verge of tears, and that is proof enough that Ejaz has really ensured that we are updated quite enough and given us complete research too, at many junctures. It was a different as well as enlightening experience since I came to know many aspects of the LGBTQ community that I was previously unaware of.

Strange are the ways of fate. It is totally baffling at times to see and comprehend such a brutal reality. Do we humans really go that far out in our run-up to achieving something that, to begin with, has little significance? Is it really that important to be in tandem with and always in line with what is expected of one? Can we just not live and breathe in the manner we wish to? Why is it so important to be in the particular frame of “typecasting” that society decides for us? A sad travesty of humanity, really!

One of the strongest social stigmas related to colour has been brilliantly addressed by Ejaz through this one too. It is not easy to pick up an issue of such magnitude and address it in such a poignant manner. Nevertheless, the ending was something I surely did not expect as well. What was it? Well, go and pick it up and read it to discover it, you guys. But I would say, please, please do read this one for sure!

A fabulous debut, and I am surely going to be looking forward to more of Ejaz’s work. P.S. A special mention goes to the cover illustration since the message of the entire tale has been conveyed with such alacrity that I doubt if this story could have ever gotten a better cover than this one. Good writing and, most importantly, a good book with a strong message.

So, I hope you guys liked the book review of Dancers in the Dark by Ejaz Ahamad.

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Adios Amigos!

This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle, hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla.

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  1. Harjeet Kaur September 14, 2023 at 3:43 pm

    A five star review in all aspects! Your review has surely fueled my curiosity and would love to get my hands on a copy. Thanks for sharing such an insightful reciew.

    1. Anjali Tripathi September 16, 2023 at 12:24 am

      Neelam, your book review is incredibly insightful and thought-provoking.You’ve gone in-depth into the book’s themes of racism, social norms, discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, and family ties. It’s clear that this book left a profound impact on you, and your recommendation is convincing. I appreciate your thorough analysis and your recommendation to read this powerful narrative.

      1. Karen Dsouza September 17, 2023 at 5:49 pm

        Feels like I’m not reading a review but a book by itself.. a very interesting way or writing review. your review is so provoking that I already get the urge of buying this book and reading it.

  2. Felicia September 14, 2023 at 10:31 pm

    I am intrigued and eager to read “Dancers in the Dark.” It’s refreshing to see literature that not only entertains but also challenges our perceptions and makes us question societal norms.

  3. Ambica Gulati September 15, 2023 at 5:01 pm

    You got me intrigued and sad at the same time. Books touching these sensitive topics are heartbreaking. But they are so important in the overall scheme of things, someone has to speak, even if its through fiction. Why does colour matter so much? I would certainly like to read the book, even though I know I will end up feeling sad at the state of affairs.

  4. Preeti Chauhan September 16, 2023 at 12:09 pm

    Neelam, I really like this honest and emotional review of “Dancers in the dark/” by Ejaz Ahamad. It seems to an evocative, powerful, and provocative read.

  5. Trinanjana Roy September 16, 2023 at 1:16 pm

    At some point in our lives, we all have faced some sort of social stigma and there’s no guarantee that it will not happen in the future either. I remember facing all these while growing up and those incidents hurt my self-esteem and took a toll on my emotional health. It’s so cruel to make jokes on such topics and actually tell a lot about the abuser. I absolutely hate how society has generalised a lot of things. Absolutely loved your review its always on point and thought-provoking.

  6. Kaveri Chhetri September 16, 2023 at 3:05 pm

    5 star in everything means it is quite some book. Your reviews are so gripping Neelam that sometimes when I read them, I feel, ‘m I reading lines from the book, or is this only a review?’
    I am surely surely going to pick this one up and like you.. I loved the cover… after knowing what it is about… it can’t be more apt.

  7. Samata September 16, 2023 at 7:21 pm

    It sounds like a heart touching novella… There are very few debutante authors in recent time showing the guts to talk about such sensitive topics. Hats off to this author to take a step forward and talk about such topics through creative work. Unfortunately color/complexion matter a lot still these days besides looks… I myself have medium complexion and it’s a shock for many of my friends, neighbours, relatives at my in-laws ‘ side as how I managed to trap a fair complexion guy to fall in love with me. It hurts from within but his love and faith in my love is enough to erase such pains in my life. Indeed a great review.

  8. Neeta Kadam September 17, 2023 at 12:05 am

    You give 5 star in every step. I like your review it is always true and straight forward. would love to check it out after reading your review. specially because it contains family, social taboo, LGBTQ and racism.

  9. Madhu Bindra September 17, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Seeing a full 5 star review surely has me intrigued. We need more books like these that make us think about how we are as a society. Thank you for sharing about the book.

  10. sadvik kylash September 17, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    It’s absolutely rare that an avid reader gives a 5 rating which means it’s a must-read. Your review seems interesting and I usually pick up books based on the reviews from bloggers.

  11. Flavia Cutinho September 17, 2023 at 1:47 pm

    I enjoyed the book review read. Totally I hate racism and its sad that we have come so fat to living a modern lifestyle however there are people who still have problem with skin color.

  12. Ritu Bindra September 17, 2023 at 4:09 pm

    It seems like a powerful book. And with an all-star rating from you, this is definitely going to my TBR. In spite of the growing awareness about the LGBTQ+ community, it does not get the respect it deserves. As for skin color, Indians are just as racist as we consider Caucasians to be. What’s worse is that we are racist towards our own.

  13. Janaki September 17, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    I agree with you, the cover is very powerful and after reading your review it makes a lot of sense too. That you have given it a 5 star in all categories is intriguing enough to get the book.

  14. Manisha Garg September 17, 2023 at 8:45 pm

    Your review is so detailed and made me so curious to know what lies ahead. Will surely check this book.

  15. Rose September 17, 2023 at 9:37 pm

    Liked the review. Added this to my “Books to read” list. Thank you

  16. radhika September 17, 2023 at 10:08 pm

    A perfect rating of five stars! My interest has been piqued by your review, and I would love to obtain a copy. I appreciate you sharing your thoughtful review.

  17. Sivaranjini Anandan September 17, 2023 at 10:10 pm

    A review that has five stars in all aspects plus the cover being the most apt sounds to be the best as I have heart covers play a great role in marketing as well.

  18. Monidipa Dutta September 18, 2023 at 12:59 am

    Your book review of “Dancers in the Dark” by Ejaz Ahamad is insightful and thought-provoking. You’ve effectively captured the essence of the book, highlighting its exploration of xenophobia throughout history. Your review has piqued my interest in the book. Well done! 📖👍

  19. Jeannine September 18, 2023 at 11:53 am

    Our society might be doing great in tons of things but one thing’s still not changed, respect among each other is far far away from getting there. With all the controversy nowadays when it comes to the 3rd sex, there’s no doubt that this book got 5 stars, aside of course of the fact that it is also a well written book.

  20. Docdivatraveller September 18, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    this book sounds very intriguing to me because it deals with xenophobia, something which I have personally experienced in the West, multiple times. definitely giving this a read .

  21. Rakhi Jayashankar September 18, 2023 at 10:09 pm

    I am seeing a book that addresses xenophobia for the first time. I loved how the plot develops and how you have depicted it so palpably.

  22. Noor Anand Chawla January 16, 2024 at 3:30 pm

    The book tackles a very important subject. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.


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