சில நேரங்களில் சில மனிதர்கள் – Jayakanthan
I had a year to spare. Lots of books and movies to catch up with. Well, by books I had the public libraries here in mind. And I did read. 10-15 books per visit every 3 weeks. I tried to put in as much variety as I could – A Henry James, Mary Higgins Clark, Robert Frost’s collection of Poetry, a George Eliot, a Sidney Sheldon (for when, if I had the time to spare for one more book! :P) Salman Rushdie and some randomly picked from the top searches. I should have started this blog then, as I would have had more to contribute. Given my memory, it’s quite a remarkable accomplishment that I have remembered these many now!
Anyways, going back to the topic, my list did not include contemporary tamil literature at that time. I was reading the lone Balakumaran that I had stolen from a friend and happened to mention it to my dad. I was immediately flooded with authors and books that I should get my hands on if I enjoyed that one I was reading(I don’t remember the name – Aasai enum vEdham I think?) It was not a great read, was okay in bits and pieces but it definitely started the flood of tamil books that I began reading. The very next one that appa sent me was Sila Nerangalil. I loved the name – the name seems to define the character (Ganga, right?) - very whimsical, accepting but not conforming to anything, putting everything down to the low lives of fellow beings. (Was reminded of Guna – “Poo Manushangala!” )
Everyone I knew kept mentioning that it was a controversial read. Some folks (other than my dad, of course) who had not read the book but had listened to somebody speak about it, so much as tried to extract a promise out of me that I wouldn’t try reading it! You can imagine the levels my curiosity would have reached with such antics. I made sure the book landed on my doorstep as soon as possible. Everyone in my environment at that time had created so much hype about the book that I sat down to read it almost immediately.
— Thus began an old draft that was written sometime in 2007 I would guess from the references (which I have fudged now of course to retain whatever sanctity this space has!). There are more drafts with half written paragraphs than actual posts in my dashboard. I should finish writing things more often. The effort required to complete this draft is going to be painful. For example, I had forgotten that Sila Nerangalil was the first tamil book appa bought for me. I had forgotten that such silly promises were made and more importantly, were asked of me. Was I simply a shadow of who I thought I was all those years ago? I cannot even imagine M and I having a conversation about what books I am “allowed” to read. I cannot begin to imagine I allowed myself to be that person who was instructed about what opinions I should have even for the smallest period of time. Sigh – this is exactly the kind of introspection that I can do without today.
So, maybe I am not going to review the book so much as talk about the relevance/irrelevance of the protagonist’s predicament. But you know what, it is almost impossible for me to do that without sounding like a “feminist” – a tag that I don’t care to associate myself with simply because of the baggage it comes with. Rape, blaming of the victim and why I don’t like the tag of feminism is another topic for another day and I cannot do it justice by talking about it here. So that’s ruled out as well.
I have come a long long way from when I began writing this post – simply by measure of the amount of tamil literature I have exposed myself to – a lot more Jayakanthan, a lot of Sujatha, a lot of La Sa Ra, a few Sundara Ramaswamy, some Thi. Janakiraman. I do remember a lot of stuff from the book. When I read it, I think I did judge Ganga just a bit (ok, maybe more than just little) – something that I might not do if I read it now. That objective measure of becoming non-judgemental about other people and their issues is definitely something I have accrued with age and maturity. I might however find Ganga a bit too naive if I read it now – you know, like K. Balanchander’s heroines (especially the ones in newer films like Kalki, even Sindhu Bhairavi for that matter). That personality of seeming to be mature, bordering on condescension was very much a part of the Ganga in the later part of the novel. But then, she was also given those moments of absolute confusion that possibly made her more human. Maybe those moments redeemed her of her condescension. I don’t know.
I do not intend to make a commentary on the “anti-brahmin” or castiest underlinings of the book. I did not read it from that point of view, nor do I given any credit to those propaganda. Even if Jayakanthan did have a sole agenda of brahmin bashing in writing this, I couldn’t care less. For me, it was merely about the girl and the gray area when you grow older and wiser and are not sure of what is the “right” thing to do always.