Human emotions from the bedrock of these tales.
From Pudumaipithan to Sujatha, the line-up of writers, 12 in all, is an interesting mix, each story a mirror to the author’s style. A quick look at the tales:
Sangu Thevanin Dharmam (Pudumai Pithan)
Visualise a village in Tirunelveli district. It is dusk. An old woman is at a goldsmith’s workshop, coaxing him to finish work on a jewel to be worn by her granddaughter whose wedding is to take place the next morning. Receiving the ornament, the woman starts on her journey to the next village and she has to cross a jungle. Clutching the packet she makes quick strides looking over her shoulder praying that she will not be waylaid by Sanguthevan, the bandit. It is soon dark and to her relief she is joined by a man who promises to escort her. For a voracious reader the end may not be a surprise but the story is a delight sprinkled with Nellai dialect.
(The story of Tirumangai Mannan is the parallel)
Theermanam (Thi. Janakiraman)
Again a rural setting and the protagonist is a ten-year old girl. She settles down on the pyol of her house with her Chozhi, to wait for her friend. Radhai does not turn up but at the doorstep is her father-in-law, who arrives in a bullock cart to take her to their house. Her husband wants her there. The child-bride shows extraordinary maturity and quickly decides to go ‘home,’ leaving her aunt stunned and her father in tears. With amazing ease the girl reveals the woman in her and a determination that Sita showed when Rama gets ready to go into exile. “My place is beside you, wherever you are,” she tells Rama and accompanied him to the forest.
(The story is based on real experience, according to Sujatha.)
Dhaaraigal (La.Sa. Ramamrutham)
Dhaaraigal are the springs that give a well perennial water supply - the moisture that keeps life going. Like a woman’s kind heart, the recesses filled with compassion. One such woman grows in stature by her gesture to another woman, victim of male wickedness. A fierce transformation of personality. La.Sa.Ra builds up the situation beautifully using metaphors from Nature.
(The story of Ahalya is the parallel.)
This is a hilarious account of a tussle centred round a cow that has a mind of its own. The efforts of a family to own a cow becomes a misadventure. The graphic description through the eyes of a school boy brings alive the story.
(Yes, the link is the Visvamitra-Vasishta battle over Nandini.)
Thanneer (Sundara Ramaswamy)
Water – subject of conflicts for centuries. It required the marathon penance of Bhagiratan to release the Ganga from the locks of Siva. This village is in the grip of continuous drought in the absence of rain. The poor farmer looks up to the sky for mercy even as he is denied share of the water stored in the reservoir. It is a matter of life and death and the bravest among them make the momentous decision to bring water to the fields. Never mind the consequences. Pathos and sarcasm dominate in this story of human endeavour.
Amma Mantapam (Sujatha)
Frank irreverence to pretensions is one of the adorable qualities of Sujatha. The breezy style captures weaknesses that often hide steely strength. The young pious woman in this story is determined to take her atheist husband to the shrine of Ranganatha and she manages to bring him to Srirangam and even make him take a dip in the Cauvery. Fate takes over at this point sending the two on a spin.
(Finds a parallel in Purandara Dasa and his wife)
It is war time and the insane dance of death as innocent civilian lives are claimed by cruel inhuman enemies. We meet a mother and her five-year old son, the latter has never seen daylight, on the run to check the fate of his sister. The author is said to have been inspired by the My Lai massacre (Vietnam.)
(King Asoka and the battle of Kalinga)
Namavali (R. Choodamani)
Godliness gets a new definition in this story. The Almighty, incidentally the narrator, is present where there is fairness, justice and love.
Asalum Nagalum (Indira Parthasarathy)
How unpredictable a child can be, its thinking beyond adult comprehension, some times. An artist, who goes to great length to keep the promise give to his young friend, is in for a shock.
(The story of Dhruva)
Poo Udhirum (Jayakanthan)
A flower blooms to wither; so also a human life; better to dedicate that life to a cause. A retired soldier inspires his son to join the army. The young officer dies on the front, leaving a pregnant wife with fragrant memories.
Watching the garden around her house is the favourite pastime of this young woman, who is subjected to a rude shock. Based on experience, just as most of Sivasankari’s creations are.
What when a worm turns? A village labourer raises her voice against unfair compensation for the work her group has done in the field. The capitalist learns a lesson here.
(Manimekalai transforming the king.)
Keywords: Tamil literature