Tuesday, July 29, 2008

U.A. Khader - The fame of Thrikkottur

Completed reading UA Khader's “Thrikkottur Peruma” (The fame of Thrikkottur). Thrikkottur, in the work, is a village in northern Kerala. I'm not sure whether the name is imaginary. However, the characters and the events appear real in every sense. With old tales from countryside (Pazhamkathakal in Malayalam) Khader weaves his 'Thrikkottur Peruma', which won the Kerala Sahitya Academy Award in 1982. In the novelites that collectively make up this book, readers get introduced to characters from different caste and creed. Though the author appears mostly in first person, he would like to consider himself as just one among the onlookers witnessing the incidents narrated in the story. Hence the tag “We, Thrikkottur inhabitants” often appears in the narratives.
The caste surname of each character is significant for a lasting literary experience. Yakshi, often the ghost of a lady who had met an unnatural death, makes an appearance in most of the stories. In fact, the instances when Yakshis are actually seen by the characters are not many. On the other hand, Yakshi lives in the collective memory, tales and myths of the Thrikkottur inhabitants. And the myths are recalled more frequently than the actual appearance of Yakshi.

The slangs, caste surnames, dialogs of characters at decisive moments in the narratives and the raw human life depicted all throughout the stories leave a lasting memory in the reader. Thiyyan, Kurup, Kadungon, Thattan, Musaliyar, Haji, Kurikkal, Vaidyar are some of the characters which appear in the novelites. Rather than a caste or religious divide, it is the lust for life that divides them. Who can overpower whom in the fulfillment of desire, whose ego finally rules etc. have been the questions before men of all ages. The same concerns find another place in this literary work too. No one is found explicitly tormented by caste, religion or identity. Not even by poverty. (Recalling an incident from one of the stories: Kelappa Kurup, a powerful landlord of Thrikkottur, plans to hang a signboard infront of the serpent's temple in Thrikkottur, prohibiting the entry of non-Hindus into the temple compound. Kurup asked his Muslim accomplice to order for the signboard. The na├»ve Muslim asks Kurup, perplexed: “Who are these non-Hindus? We Muslims can, of course, come and see the festivals there. Can't we?”) They all live their roles in that part of the globe where they are born and brought up.

Hence a surrealistic conclusion: the one who becomes a victim to Yakshi - the one whose blood would be sucked up by her and whose lifeless body would appear in the bushes the next morning – would be equally satisfied as his supernatural killer. For, the victim also finds it gratifying to have played an active role in the incident.

Ayalkkar of P. Kesavadev

“Ayalkkar” (neighbors) is an award-winning novel of P. Kesavadev, one of the prolific writers of 20th century Kerala. In the “introduction” to this book, the author contemplates on the social progress to which Kerala was slowly waking up in the beginning of twentieth century. His analyses of these developments often give birth to his literary works, as what happened in this book too, the author says. Dev, as the writer has been popularly known in Kerala, recalls that there were three main aspects for the social progress witnessed by Kerala in the first half of twentieth century (the introduction written in 1963 takes into account half a century preceding it to make this inference). The destruction of matrilineal system (marumakkathayam), which had a tint of feudal character in it, the social mobility of Ezahvas, who had witnessed backwardness in a caste-ridden society, and the progress of Christian community in the economic and education front were the three aspects.