A group of friends from Shillong journey to a remote part of West Khasi Hills to witness Ka Phor Sorat, the feast of the dead, a unique six-day-long funeral ceremony of the Lyngngams, a Khasi sub-tribe. It may well be the last time this ancient rite is performed. The ceremony—involving a number of rituals and the sacrifice of as many as fifty bulls—will conclude with the cremation of a beloved elder, a woman whose body has been preserved in a tree house for nine whole months.
By mistake, however, the group ends up reaching the secluded hamlet of Nongshyrkon seven days early. Stuck in the jungle for eleven days, they spend their nights around a fire in the middle of a spacious hut built especially for them, sharing stories and debating issues in what turns out to be a journey of discovery for all of them.
Funeral Nights is an unconventional novel—a vast collection of stories big and small, not so much about death, but about life, past, present and future, rural and urban, high and low; about admirable men and women, raconteurs and pranksters, lovers and fools, politicians and conmen, drunks and taxi drivers; about culture and history, religion and God, myth and legend. Inspired by the narrative frame of Boccaccio’s The Decameron and The Arabian Nights, but adopting a serio-comic style, this is intimate access to a whole world, spectacular in its documentation of a tribe’s life and culture such as has never been attempted before.
‘A closely-woven sequence of narratives that provides us a profound insight into the working of the tribal psyche where the borders of the real and the surreal get blurred ... Here is a book of rare scholarship that Mircea Eliade or Claude L vi-Strauss would have read with admiration and yet remains as accessible as fiction to the lay reader.’
K . SATCHIDANANDAN
‘This is the Moby Dick of Meghalaya, a novel of huge ambition and tremendous appetite. Or is it a novel at all?’
JERRY PINTO author of Em and the Big Hoom and Murder in Mahim