Ranjit Kauri, The Dancing Maharani and Other Stories, Swansea, Head and Heart, 2019, £6.99; reviewed by Don Franks
Working people are not the same country to country.
Our struggles for a better life take place in surroundings of very different cultural customs and social traditions, which can appear incomprehensible from one nation to another. An action which seems to make perfect sense in an Indian village will not necessarily work as well in a British suburb.
Self-evident, you may say, but the dehumanisation wrought by imperialism’s propaganda machine depends on myths related to cultural difference. Myths that some peoples are foolish, backward, unintelligent and thus expendable, not deserving of full human consideration. False notions of mad bad foreigners have long been capitalism’s stock in trade to keep workers divided and thus more compliant.
A small collection of short stories blows a considerable hole in this reactionary world view.
The Dancing Maharani and other stories is the first published collection by Ranjit Kaur. The author knows life in Britain’s Midlands as a young immigrant, also life as a returnee to India, where she spent her teenage years as an immigrant. A long-time campaigner for women’s rights, Ranjit is also a cunning story teller, conjuring, in few words, drama and interest from tiny as well as large events.
Her reader is taken on a guided tour of the immigrant mind, through the contradictions of cultures changing people and of people, with their new experience, challenging and changing the culture in which they find themselves. At the end of this tour the reader may feel, as I did, the sensation of being hosted briefly by a friendly and tolerant extended Indian family and knowing a bit more about what makes them tick.
Enjoyable fiction, The Dancing Maharani and other stories also strikes a a blow for international understanding.