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Lagraziana's Kalliopeion

This is a blog about my reads as well as everything related to them.

My taste is for good quality literature - old and new. Some of it I review here or on my main book blog Edith's Miscellany.



The Tenacity of Unworthy Old Traditions in Modern India: The Temple Is Not My Father by Rasana Atreya

The Temple Is Not My Father: A Story Set in India - Rasana Atreya, Sheila M Clark, Manoj Vijayan

It was the Indian author Rasana Atreya herself who offered me her novella The Temple Is Not My Father for review. Usually I refuse, but this time I accepted for reasons unknown even to myself. Probably it was meant to be. At any rate, it was a good decision since it’s an important work shedding light on women on the margins of society whom we tend to neglect or to even overlook deliberately. In addition it’s a well-written and interesting story from rural India.


The protagonists of The Temple Is Not My Father are a young Indian woman called Godavari and her eight-year-old daughter Sreeja. They live in a small village way-off Hyderabad which would make for a Bollywood idyll, if the two weren’t outcasts. When Godavari was eight years old her adored father dedicated her to Goddess Yellamma, but only when she reached puberty, the full scope of her father’s deal with the Temple became clear to her: he had made her a devdasi which in modern times has become a synonym for prostitute. Godavari was luckier than others. Her courageous mother stood by her side and eventually sacrificed her own life to provide for her daughter and grand-daughter, so they wouldn’t be at the mercy of men. One day the sisters Neeraja and Vanaja, fourteen and fifteen, break the isolation of Godavari and Sreeja. They have grown up in the USA and don’t care that the house is forbidden them. Their presence launches a series of events that will drive Godavari to give up Sreeja and to take life into her own hands trusting in her daughter’s well-being with the other family… alas things aren’t always the way you want to believe.


The Temple Is Not My Father is a touching story from Indian society that in many ways is modern in the Western style and at the same time remains deeply rooted in its old traditions although their meaning has in some cases been lost or perverted. Especially the situation of the majority of women seems to be lamentable, not least because of poverty combined with high birth rates and due to their still low status in the strongly patriarchal society. The cruel fate of the devdasi is only one example for the abuse of girls and women in the name of tradition. In fact, their existence hasn’t been entirely new to me, but it makes a difference if you just read or hear about them or if you are drawn into the tragic fate of one, be it through a true or a fictitious story. It’s the author’s merit to have put a spotlight on one of those women who use to suffer in the shadows of a male world.


Other works of the author are Tell A Thousand Lies, which was shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia award and included in Glam magazine’s list of Five Favourite Tales from India in June 2014, and Twenty-Eight Years A Bachelor.