Hands on DesireOn Devadasis, Dance and Desire | Warscapes.

Desire of the Moth borrows its title from English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, “One Word is Too Often Profaned.” While Shelly’s poem is composed of two stanzas originally, it is the second stanza that serves as a thematic framework for the novel. In his poem, Shelley pointed to a natural longing, almost an inherent need for the moth to desire the star and for the night to want the morrow even at the expense of self-annihilation in order to fulfill its longing. It is in this desperate longing that Bilwakesh juxtaposes her protagonist, Sowmya, a widow whose life is cast in darkness by the time and tradition that binds her. Like the moth’s attraction to the light, Sowmya’s desires to live freely and happily prove to have unhappy consequences. However, just as the night has to pass away in order to let day come, Sowmya, too, has to leave her old life behind in order to live her new one. While Shelley’s poem ends on a sober note of impossible yet natural desires, Bilwakesh offers her readers meaningful and alternate possibilities to attain “devotion[s] to something afar.

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Blog – Ellen Meeropol.

Also coming this fall is DESIRE OF THE MOTH, by Champa Bilwakesh. I met Champa seven years ago in a fiction workshop at Sewanee Writers Conference, where we had each submitted a novel chapter. I still vividly remember her chapter about a young Brahmin girl, widowed and shorn and ostracized from life by the customs of the time. It was a hot July in Tennessee and Champa’s chapter was set in southern India. The writing was rich with the smell of flowers and the sheen of perspiration. I still have vivid memories of the beat of the music Champa described, and the gender politics that were so much a part of her story. So I was delighted to hear from Champa that her novel DESIRE OF THE MOTH was being published by Upset Press. And even more delighted to read the finished manuscript and return to that critical time in Indian political history and to the story of a fifteen-year-old girl learning about liberation and making art.

–Ellen Meerapol

Jun 14, 2015 Ammu rated it 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderfully written novel!

The author does a great job painting such a vivid story, and developing characters that we truly love. As a former dancer, her descriptions of Sowmya’s experiences really resonated with me and I could see all her movements in my mind’s eye.

A Must Read!

What a wonderfully written novel! The author does a great job painting such a vivid story, and developing characters that we truly love. As a former dancer, her descriptions of Sowmya’s experiences really resonated with me and I could see all her movements in my mind’s eye.

Great story, richly told, and vividly described.
–A. D. Kowolik on June 14, 2015
A Story of Hope
If you’ve ever wondered about customs that horrify, whose cruelty is hard to justify, this book is for you. Set in the backdrop of a country fighting for independence is the story of a young widow fighting for hers. You cheer her escape from convention-bound in-laws, her self-discovery and eventual independence through dance, and finally, her bitter-sweet reconciliation with remnants of her family. Champa Bilwakesh tells a story of hope in Desire of the Moth, with a conviction that moves and enlightens. I read and re-read the story multiple times. At first reading I was gripped by Soumya’s fate and how she overcame her challenges. Later I went back to digest the nuances of Tamil Brahmin life, very delightfully exposed by the author. And still later to the historical backdrop. All these layers add a depth and richness to the story, which make this book a very enjoyable read. It fulfills Brecht’s decree that art must educate as well as entertain, to be useful. Highly recommend!
–Usha Krishnamurthy on June 12, 2015

It’s a beautiful tribute to the women of India

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a preview of this novel. It’s a beautiful tribute to the women of India…a gorgeous story beautifully written. Highly recommend.

–Shubha Chick on May 11, 2015

I definitely recommend!

This is a gorgeous book! I’ve read books on independence before but this is magical. It is a coming of age story of a young girl, a young nation and a young film industry. I was enamored by the details of the dance and really swept away by the story. I finished it on a few train rides. So… I definitely recommend!

–Zephyr on May 19, 2015

It’s definitely a great read.

Desire of the Moth takes us on a journey for independence for both the protagonist as well as South India. Sowmya’s story goes beyond a mere physical transformation to incorporate the beauty of being a woman in a troubled and inconsiderate time. It’s definitely a great read.

–Fozia Bhaiyat on May 26, 2015