In Chengara Samaravum Ente Jeevithavum Selena Prakkanam, O.K. Santosh and M.B. Manoj have let Selena narrate her story in a smooth manner rather than make it seem like an activist’s handbook.
Her makeshift shanty was in counter number three, right at the centre of the ‘encroached’ estate land that was the stage of the Chengara protests. From someone who was so in the thick of affairs of one of Kerala’s noted land struggles, a book of this detail is not a surprise. The striking factor in this autobiographical account, however, is the total absence of even a trace of timidity that most personal stories of fights against odds usually have, at least when they open.
The book’s cover has Selena with her eyes reflecting the temerity and belief in the cause she fought for. It comes, may be naturally, for someone whose activism was more shaped by circumstances than by rhetoric, volumes on rebellion, or even influences.
As a child, Selena had filled her crying tummy with soothing words from her mother. As a teenager, she had borne the sarcasm of the ‘affluent’ mainstream at a city college for being from society’s fringe class. Later, as a member of Sadhu Jana Vimochana Samyukta Vedi (SJVSV), the organisation that spearheaded the Chengara struggle, she was asked to douse herself with kerosene in case of a police attack on the scene of protests. She fought all such odds with a steely resolve, retorting to silence that she also used to chisel her rebellion into a meticulous and disciplined fight.
Selena’s rise up the ranks of the SJVSV from a member to its secretary may not be as easy as in the book. But her almost-natural understanding of organisational behaviour pops up at several instances in the book as she talks about how to plan protests, how to keep together conflicting minds and even how to approach a community that has fear imbibed in it through generations of servile existence.
O.K. Santosh and M.B. Manoj have let Selena narrate her story in a language lucid enough to make it seem a smooth read rather than an activist’s handbook.
Chengara Samaravum Ente Jeevithavum Selena Prakkanam
O.K. Santosh, M.B. Manoj