Inside, Veda felt the rhythms. Outside, she felt Shiva gleaming in the temple.
Author Padma Venkatraman uses philosophical and spiritual narratives in A Time to Dance to tell the story of Veda’s struggle to repossess her passion for dancing. This inspiring story, told through verses that capture the beauty of India, is about a spiritual awakening and the courage of the human spirit.
Veda spends her entire life training to be a classical dancer. Her mother wants her to either study engineering or receive a degree that will help her get a white collar job, but she, along with her father, grandmother, and teacher, knows that she excels at dancing. Her devotion and hard work pay off, and her dreams finally begin to come true when she wins a dance competition. On her way home from the competition, a tragic accident crushes her leg. When she wakes up, her leg has been amputated below the knee. The accident destroys her dream and leaves her in pain. As a girl who has always been admired for her flexible body, she is devastated to learn that she can hardly walk. She feels all her dreams crumbling around her. But Veda remains strong; she refuses to let this setback get in the way of her passion, and starts believing that she can recover.
Readers are taken on the journey of Veda’s struggles and introduced to her mentors. Gradually, Veda learns to move in her new body. She discovers the spiritual side of dance, reconnects with the world around her, and begins to realize what dance truly means to her.
Venkatraman magnificently presents Veda’s story, along with the beauty of India. The vocabulary and lyrical sentences immerse the reader in the scene. She powerfully and poetically depicts the art form of dance, which adds an element of movement to the novel. The verse format adds musicality, providing both visual and auditory imagery for the reader. This imagery is also helpful in depicting Veda’s metamorphosis through her art.
Although dance and spirituality play the most important roles in this novel, the author also brings forward other themes that highlight Indian culture. Indian family relationships are depicted by attention to the sacrifices and strengths of Veda’s mother and grandmother. Women are portrayed in a very dynamic light, showing the compromises they make to live up to the expectations of Indian culture.
Religion also plays a major role. Venkatraman introduces us to different aspects of Hindu beliefs. Veda performs Bharata Natyam, a spiritual dance that honors Shiva, the Hindu god. Through dance, Veda grows spiritually and develops the “three kinds of love: a healthy love of one’s physical self, compassion for others, and an experience of God.” The reader experiences the power of love and the tranquility that belief in Shiva brings to Veda.
The author merges art and spirituality, religion and compassion, culture and connection in this beautiful piece of writing. She takes the readers on an emotional ride of grief, loss, happiness, achievement, and other emotions we feel every day.
I gave A Time to Dance four out of five stars. I felt like I was along with Veda on her journey to regain her passion, and the characters were sitting with me in the kitchen with a cup of hot coffee. The strength of women is portrayed in a completely unique way. While reading, I had some problems understanding the parts relating to Indian culture, as I know very little about it, but the book increased my knowledge and introduced me to Hindu gods.
Because I am not a fan of the fantasy genre, it was a little difficult for me to imagine Shiva and the Bharata Natyam dance while reading, but still, the book brought together the strength of women, art, music, and dance to create a whirlpool of Indian culture.
For a girl who lost the tools to craft her dreams, Veda didn’t give up. She faced those setbacks with her head held high. Sometimes when I’m faced with problems and see no solution, I look to characters like Veda for inspiration. She may be a fictional character, but she taught me a lot.
If you need some serious inspiration, this is the book for you. From strong characters to compromises and let downs, this roller coaster ride of emotions will leave your heart yearning for more.
Ammarah Imran is a 17-year-old Pakistani girl who loves to read and dine out. The emphasis of her life is entirely on education and achieving good grades. Apart from that, she loves to visit different places and try food there. She loves to hang out with her friends and watch movies. Usually her time is spent studying, as she is in grade 12. She watches television whenever she is free!
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