Book Review: “Dancing with Demons” by Nidhie Sharma

When a Writer-Director who is an adventure sports enthusiast comes out with her first novel, which is soon to be made into a Bollywood movie, expectations are high. And Nidhie Sharma’s debut novel, “Dancing with Demons” definitely lives up to those expectations. dancingwithdemons

“Dancing with Demons” is written in a language that is raw. Nidhie Sharma has not couched her words in politeness or niceties. And somehow this adds to the story and makes it more real, though there were a few instances, where the English could have been better.

The details which go into describing the moves and rules of the boxing matches show the amount of research that has gone into the story. As I was reading the book, I sort of slipped away into another world, the world of boxing: the emotions and hopes and frustrations of the people in that world.

The title is “Dancing with Demons” and the demons are real. In both Karan’s life and Sonia’s. The pain, the anger, the angst, the frustration that the characters experience in dealing with them are portrayed really well.

I love the way she has built up the characters. Not just Karan and Sonia but the supporting cast as well. Sonia comes across as a strong headed woman. She does not take anything lying down. She fights, she drinks, she is real! So is Karan. You can see his vulnerability under his anger. Jerry as the coach feels for the young Karan and is so upset when Karan blows his career because of his anger that he walks away even though he loves Karan as his own. Madan is a lovable crook. You get irritated with him but you understand where he comes from.

What I didn’t like was that while Karan’s anger is explained, I would have liked a little more background story on Sonia. Also the story could have done with a little bit of settling down. The ending felt a little bit rushed and abrupt.

All in all a good book, a quick exciting read. It is definitely worth picking up a copy for yourself.


Karan Pratap Singh is on the brink of winning the Amateur Boxing Championship, when in a moment, he loses it all. His fall from glory seems fuelled by ruthless arrogance and an out-of-control anger management problem. That, however is just symptomatic of a deeper issue. Buried under layers of his fractured subconscious lies a childhood secret he cannot come to terms with.

Sonia Kapoor is a beautiful, volatile young woman with a secret that torments her at night but a secret that she feels no guilt for.

When fate throws Karan and Sonia together in Mumbai, their personal demons and pasts collide and stir up trouble in their fragile and uncertain present. But, is redemption possible without forgiveness?

Dancing with Demons is a fast-paced action drama of love, loss and resurrection.

Disclaimer: I received this book in PDF form from The Book Club in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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My Visitor

I stood back and surveyed the window. I had spent the better part of an hour getting it spotless and the result satisfied me.  Suddenly the door bell pealed and my best friend, Maya, stood at the door.
“Oh no!” I thought, “Not now.” Now don’t get me wrong. Maya is my best friend, but as she is also an incurable gossip, with an extremely inquisitive streak, I was in no mood for her company just then.
My misgivings were justified, because the first thing she said was, “My God! Sunita! What happened! Your house is absolutely sparkling!”
She saw the withering look I gave her and hastened to add, “No…no… I don’t mean that otherwise your house is a mess, but well, let’s be truthful….you are not exactly enamoured of housework are you?” and when I reluctantly nodded, she added, “So? What’s the occasion? Who’s coming? Your mother-in-law?”
“No one’s coming,” I replied. “Can’t a woman keep her house clean if she wants to?” It was obvious that she did not believe me but before she could start up again, I steered the topic away from my over clean house.
“Come on, let’s have a cup of tea shall we? And tell me, Maya, when is Jayshree’s baby due?”
“Oh dear!  That’s what I came to tell you in the first place. She delivered this morning! Twins! Imagine that! And now it seems she knew all along but she didn’t want anyone to know…..hey!….Sunita….what’s the matter? You have not listened to a word of what I have said. And why are you looking at the clock so often? If you want me to go, just say so. I know when I am not wanted,” she said in a hurt voice.
“No – it’s not that. It’s just ….,” I began rather reluctantly, wondering whether I should tell her the truth. But Maya was already out of the door muttering something about the treachery of friends.
As I stood at the window, I saw Mrs. Ghosh call out to Maya from her vantage place at her window. From their various gestures and with a little bit of lip reading, I gathered that she too was curious about what was happening at my house, because I knew that she had seen me at work since early morning, which was quite unusual for me.
I realised that I should have told Maya the truth because within an hour the whole neighbourhood would be aware of the fact that I was expecting an “important visitor”.
And if I knew Maya well enough, she would not be at peace until she knew what was happening or who was supposed to come to my place. Sure enough, she dropped by in the evening, still wearing a slightly injured air. She entered the living room and sat on the sofa in silence. I sat in silence myself, wondering how long it would take for her curiosity to get the better of her.
I did not have to wait long. In less than two minutes, Maya burst out, “Are you going to tell me or not?”
“What?” I asked feigning innocence.
“You  know perfectly well what!” she cried. “Who was your visitor?”
“Visitor?” I said in a surprised voice. “The only visitor I had today was you, my dear Maya.”
“Oh! And it was for my benefit you had the house all spruced up?” Maya asked sarcastically. “Come on Sunita, who was it?”
“Oh!” I said as if I suddenly understood what she was talking about, “you must mean Pushpa!”
“Pushpa!” she echoed. “Who is she?”
“My new maid!” I said rather triumphantly.
“Maid!….but why did you clean up the house?”
“To ensure that she keeps it that way. If she would have found the house in a mess, she would have thought that I would have tolerated it if her work was not up to the mark.” I explained.
“But why didn’t you tell me?” Maya asked.
“Because my dear friend, you would have gone around telling everyone that I am getting a maid; and knowing what a problem it is to get a good maid these days, someone would have stolen her away even before I could engage her.”
“But now what will I tell everybody? If they ask me who your visitor was and if I tell them what you told me, they will have a good laugh at me!” Maya wailed.
“Serves you right!” I said laughing, “It’s time you learnt to shut that big mouth of yours sometimes,” and immediately had to duck to avoid the cushion that Maya flung at me.

A Skeleton in the closet

Skeleton in the closet

It was a particularly loud burst of thunder that woke me up. The simultaneous flash of blinding lightning completed the job. I sat up gingerly, feeling stiff all over. “I guess I must have slept for too long in an awkward position.” I thought. But then I realised I was getting drenched in the rain and realised I was out doors.

“Had something happened to me?” I wondered, “did I have an accident?” But besides the stiffness in my joints nothing seemed to hurt and since it was too dark to see clearly, I decided to head home first.

I saw the outline of a gate in the distance and decided to walk towards it. As I walked out, I realised that I was outside the church. Having got my bearings, it was easier to find my way home.

Judging by how empty the street was, I guess it was pretty late. I suppose the heavy rain too had kept people indoors; which is where I should have been instead of in the churchyard. “I must have fallen badly and hit my head.” I thought, “ I can’t seem to remember going to the church at all.”

I realised that I had reached home finally and rang the door bell. My wife, Susanna was sure to be pretty mad; specially if she had no idea where I had been.

The door opened and with a scream, Susanna fell into a dead faint at my feet. Whatever reaction I had expected, it was certainly not this. “Was I really hurt so badly that my face looked hideous?” I wondered.

Shrugging, I carried Susanna and laid her on the bed. She opened her eyes and looked as if she was going to scream again. “Susanna”, I called out, “please don’t faint. I am not hurt. I will look better after a wash.”

The horror on her face turned to incredulousness, “ Joe, “ she whispered my name, “is that you?’

“Of course it’s me!” I replied in exasperation. “Who else could it be?”  

“But how? why? …….” her voice trailed off

“Look, I’m sorry I frightened you.” I told her getting really irritated now.”I think I had a fall in the church yard and hit my head. I can’t remember anything after telling you that I was not feeling well this morning.”

“This…this ….morning?” Susanna broke into hysterical laughter.
“Stop it! Susanna pull yourself together!” I told her, holding her by the shoulders and shaking her. “I am okay, or I will be after I have a wash.”

With eyes still wild with hysteria, though she wasn’t laughing anymore, Susanna pointed to the bathroom. “Okay. okay. I’ll have a wash first.” I muttered as I walked into the bathroom. I opened the tap in the sink and splashed water on my face. I glanced into the mirror above the sink to see how damaged my face was if it had scared Susanna so much.

This time it was I who almost fainted. Staring back at me from the mirror was the face of a skeleton. In horror I looked down at my hands and the rest of my body. There were only bones.
Where was my body?

I looked back at Susanna who was standing by the door, holding on to it as if her life depended on it. “What? How?” It was my turn to stammer.

Susanna walked into the bathroom and ran her hands over the bones of my face and then over my shoulders. Resting her head against my chest, she sobbed her heart out. Nothing was making sense and I tried to hold Susanna away from me to figure out what was happening. But she refused to let go and held on for dear life.

Alarmed, I asked, “What is it Susie? What had happened? I don’t understand anything.”

Through her tears she said, “When I prayed for you to come back, I never realised you would come back in this form.”

“Come back from where?” I asked

“Oh Joe!” she wailed, “ It’s been a year to the day since you died. I’ve missed you so much. Everyday I prayed for you to come back to me and  now you finally have.”

I sat down heavily on the toilet seat at her answer as reality hit me. I did not have an accident or fall in the churchyard. I had died and been buried there! And for some reason the storm had brought back my skeleton to life.

“Now what do we do?” I asked.

“Nothing” said Susanna matter of factly  “ I prayed for you to come back and you have. You are just going to have to stay here.”

It has been six months now that I have been back. It feels good to be back home, watching Susanna going about life, sitting side by side with her head on my shoulder watching old movies on television. Just us in our own special world.

Somehow we have managed to keep my presence a secret from others. But that is not too difficult as we live alone. In fact just the other day, Joanna, my niece dropped in for a visit and Susanna told me to hide.

As I sat in the cupboard amidst the clothes, I could hear them talking and laughing. Feeling a bit cramped, I stretched my arm which got entangled in some hangers bringing them crashing down.

“What was that?” Joanna asked.Susanna laughingly replied, “ Oh nothing! Just a skeleton in the closet I expect.”