‘The Sacred Grove’ by Daman Singh is 13 year old Ashwin’s story. Ashwin is a typical teenager who loves cricket and hates being told what is right or wrong, especially by his parents! The book makes one relive one’s own confusing teenage years. The book will make you laugh at times especially when he describes his relationship with his parents, his aunt, his school teachers and his school. He is a rebellious but endearing child. The book will also manage to bring you close to tears, when Ashwin battles with his emotions when his quiet town is ravaged by communal riots.
Ashwin is the son of the district collector in a small town in India who has nothing to worry about in life. He goes to one of the best school in town, lives in a sprawling government house with a staff that is always at his beck and call. He forms a close bond with his driver Rafiq, who is also his cricket coach. Life is ideal in a peaceful town where the only thing that matters for him is his friends and his cricket.
But it is only a matter of time when things change in the town and change his perspective of life forever. When his history teacher, Sadhana Ma’m, gives the class a project on researching a place of historic importance in the town little does he know that the place he chooses will change his life forever. So he and his friend stumble upon the Sacred Grove and decide to do their project on that. As soon as they start researching they keep discovering new facts about the place. In India, sacred groves are scattered all over the country, some NGOs work with local villagers to protect such groves. Each grove is associated with a presiding deity, and the grove is referred to by different names in different parts of India. They are maintained by local communities with hunting and logging strictly prohibited within these patches. Most of these sacred deities are associated with local Hindu gods.
The grove is also the reason for the simmering tension between two religious groups the Hindus, who find the Grove sacred and the Muslims, who run a school in that area. Soon things go out of hand between the two groups and riots erupt in the peaceful town. Ashwin is deeply shaken when the very people close to him are now fighting amongst themselves. In an effort to take charge of his own life he unwittingly puts his own life in danger.
Neatly crafted and very well written book. The book manages to capture Ashwin’s teenage angst, his fears, his dreams, and his thoughts very credibly. The author has handled the events that unfold in a very sensitive way without blaming or pointing a finger at anyone.
It is a book which you must read for the sheer nostalgia of your growing up years.
About the Author:
Daman Singh graduated in Mathematics from St. Stephen’s College,Delhi, in 1984.She went to the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, for further studies and worked in the field of rural development for twenty years.
Her first novel Nine by Nine was published by HarperCollins India in 2008.She lives in Delhi with her husband, teenage son and dog.