Breaking Free – Vaasanthi


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‘Doesn’t this life strike you as shameful?’

‘I am an artist. That’s the only thing that matters to me.’

Kasturi and Lakshmi are born into the devadasi clan. While Kasturi thinks of nothing other than the joy she experiences when she’s dancing before the deity in the temple, Lakshmi is troubled by the treatment dasis receive from society, the secretive manner of her father’s visits to their house, and his reluctance to acknowledge her publicly as his daughter. To the surprise of those around her, instead of learning to dance, a frustrated and angry Lakshmi insists on getting an education, and becomes a doctor. As their paths diverge, the differences in their opinions cause a rift in Kasturi and Lakshmi’s relationship. But when tragedy strikes, Kasturi’s faith in tradition is shaken and she finds herself turning to Lakshmi once again.

Set against the rising clamour for India’s independence, Breaking Free is a nuanced and thought-provoking story of three generations of women and the effect history and memory–and secrets–have on their lives. Brilliantly translated by N. Kalyan Raman, it brings Vaasanthi’s Tamil masterpiece to an entirely new readership.


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