A book review after a long long time! This was lying in the drafts for quite some time [from 27/07/2010 :P], but I had given it up in the middle! Finally got around to wrapping it up 🙂
Price: Rs 499/-
This is a book which takes you into the deep inner lives of a Brahmin family represented by central character Sivakami, married @ 10, widowed at 18 and left with 2 children – the elder daughter Thangam and the younger son – Vairum. Her family was enlightened by her husband before marriage that his early death was written in his horoscope; but had also added that a son’s horoscope might shift the needle to the other side, which unfortunately deflected in the opposite direction.
Sivakami follows all that her caste has laid down for her religiously including shaving her head, wearing whites and more importantly, staying away from human contamination from dawn to dusk – which also means she can’t even comfort her own sweet little children. But she takes the forbidden path when it comes to one of them .. she moves back to her husband’s house from her Mom’s, with belief in her abilities to look after her daughter and ready-for-school son all by herself. She does this mainly to enroll Vairum in a secular school as she feels that her son, who is already a mathematical genius should be allowed to do something more than study in a Paathshala and become a priest.
Her only companion is their domestic help Muchami, one from a so-called low caste, whom her husband had hired before he passed away to help Sivakami in collecting the rent from their farmers who had hired their land and help her with the running of the house. Muchami is her public face for all practical purposes.
The book traces the journey of Sivakami from being that small girl, oblivious of being betrothed to the matured woman who has to handle every small thing on her own in just a few years to how she holds her family together through the coming generations!
It is an ok-ok book .. thatz what I felt atleast. I took a long time to read this one [it is more than 600 pages, but still], something which does not happen usually with me. I felt things are moving at a very slow pace from the very beginning. It did catch momentum somewhere in between, but again not any consistent @ all. Shortened by a few pages, I think it would do well in capturing the reader’s undivided attention.
What I liked [may be the only thing !?!] was the character of Sivakami .. a strong, enduring woman who after learning about his impending death from her husband, put up a brave face and learnt all the tricks of the trade from him and did her best in looking after her children and their progeny in the midst of the social and political struggle in the Indian sub-continent during that period. The other noteworthy thing is the beautiful relationship that she shares with Muchami across the barriers of sex, caste, creed and how they carry the family through turbulent times over the years.
We do need women like her, don’t we 🙂