Dr. Vayu Sampat is brought two stories: of the rape of a young girl by a powerful state official, and of a seemingly altruistic gift of blood. The first is an all too common event, the second all too rare in a society where the strong feed off the weak, and everything has its price. What challenges him is that both stories cross the lines of race in a society divided between Indians and Africans.
Involvement in these events, against his will, is the catalyst which forces Vayu from a path of comfortable routine into the chaos of uncontrollable circumstance in which all his assumptions are challenged. When the cataclysm comes, Vayu barely escapes with his life, but he at least has a future to confront.
Cosmic Dance, set in the authoritarian, post-colonial Caribbean state of Aritya (Guyana in disguise), is a fast-moving, tense and bloody political thriller whose characters draw the reader into the events from page one. It deals acutely with issues of race and gender and the interplay between intention and chance in human affairs.
No novel penetrates more deeply the political corruption at the heart of 1980s Guyana, but no Indo-Caribbean novel deals more honestly with the nature and sources of Indian racist feelings towards African-Caribbeans. Whether at the superficial level of ‘people like us/people not like us’ or at a deeper level of poisonous caste-based antipathies, Khemraj’s novel looks at how the rightful search for justice in a climate of interethnic hostility can be undermined from within. The novel also has its subtext an inquiry into the meaningfulness of a Hindu worldview as a way of making sense of the catastrophes the characters experience.
Cosmic Dance won the 1994 Guyana Prize for Literature.
Harischandra Khemraj worked as a teacher in Guyana. He won the 1994 Guyana Prize for Literature. He currently lives in the USA.