This is not an easy read. Maybe because at the end of a busy day, all you want is to read comics or your Facebook feed, nothing too strenuous. Instead, you have to grapple with existential dilemmas, philosophical quandaries, or the despondency of a dying faith or practice. Definitely not easy. But persist you must, if you're interested in expanding your thought process a little more than is usual.
Nine Lives, Nine Stories:
The Nuns' Tale - tells the story of a woman who became a Jain nun and all it encompasses, interspersed with some history of the religion.
The Dancer of Kannur - is a Theyyam practitioner, whose story is engaging because what he does is reminiscent of the 'Bhoota Kolas' that take place in these parts.
The Daughters of Yellamma - all I can recall of this one is that it was slightly melancholy. At the mention of Yellamma, the only thing that comes to mind is the tedious and completely fruitless trip to the selfsame temple near Belgaum, with its teeming multitude of people despite the scorching sun.
The Singer of Epics - This story I found the most interesting of all. The very fact that there are people out there who can recite 4,000 line epic poems from memory is enough to inspire awe, my own memory being the stuff my grandmother makes fun of (saying hers is better than mine though she's 87, which is sadly true..). The connection drawn between il(literacy) and memory is also intriguing.
The Red Fairy - talks of Sufism, and how it is in danger of being wiped out by increasingly hardline mainstream religion.
The Monk's Tale - is about how the monk had to take up arms in order to defend his faith, helping the Dalai Lama escape from Tibet in the process, along with some history of the Tibetan Buddhist way of life.
The Maker of Idols - takes you behind the scenes to where idols are made and how they are turned into gods.
The Lady Twilight and the Song of the Minstrel - speak of Tantriks and Aghoris and Bauls, without getting too much into the practices, as these seem to be very closely guarded secrets revealed only to those embracing the faith.
Overall, a very engaging read. I read it faster than I would have preferred as it was borrowed from the library but this is something that is preferably read slowly, in bits and pieces as the fancy strikes.