Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Kadal Purathil - Vanna Nilavan
Kadalpurathil is a novel set in a fishing hamlet. In his foreword, Vannanilavan says that the story is set in Manappadu, a coastal village near Tiruchendur. The characters hardly ever leave the village and the entire story happens in the few streets of the village. The story doesn't spread across generations, the time span is just a year, from one Christmas to the next. External events don't impact the village, the story could have been set in any decade.
But all these limitations don't matter once the novelist takes you into the village. He immerses you in the local dialect and makes you feel and smell the sea. Though the majority of the villagers are Christians, religion plays only a minor role in their lives. Sea is their religion and their god. Vannanilavan narrates the doomed love story of Filomina, daughter of a relatively poor boat owner and Samidas, son of a launch owner. The class difference makes their love doomed from the start. However, the story doesn't play out like a typical love story with the families as stumbling block. In fact most of the people in the village know about their amorous escapades, but don't bother stopping them, since they are expected to come to their senses and not disturb the harmony of the village. And that is exactly what these lovers do.
Filomi takes the marriage of her lover to someone else in her stride and resigns herself to her fate. Filomi's mother has a crush on the school teacher and visits his home regularly. When her mother is first introduced, she is shown as a regular haranguer, cursing everyone. After her death, Filomi opens her box and finds some embroidery work and a photo of the school teacher in his youth. Coupled with the fact that Filomi's brother became a school teacher on his mother's insistence, the finer layers of the mother's character are revealed. Similarly with
The entire novel moves on an even pace. There is adultery, murder, people going mad, but the writer doesn't squeeze emotional mileage out of these incidents. If "Oru Kadalora Kramathin Kathai" (another novel set in a coastal village inhabited by Muslims) by Thopil Mohammed Meeran can be equated to a ferocious wave hurtling against rocks, "Kadal Purathil" is a gentle lapping of waves in a cove.
At the end of the novel, one feels a sense of serenity and kinship with the characters of the novel. That is what makes this as one of the better novels of Tamil literature.
You can buy the book online here.
I discovered Manappadu village last year and have visited it thrice since then. I don't know any body out there, but a visit to the sand dunes is really soothing. It is right now one of my favorite places to visit. The photo above was taken during one of the visits. I had written about it earlier.