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On faith and language

SRAVASTI DATTA
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EVENT Mridula Koshy on her latest novel Not Only The Things That Have Happened

She tugged at heart strings, made people laugh and gave the audience something to think about. Mridula Koshy’s insightful writing never ceases to amaze.

At a reading of her latest novel Not Only The Things That Have Happened in The British Library, Bangalore last week, Mridula discussed the plot of her novel and her impressions of contemporary Malayalam literature with writer Nisha Susan.

Adoption and more

“The plot revolves around adoption. The protagonist, Annakutty Verghese, who gives up her child, dies within the first few lines of the novel. She gives up her child who is adopted in the forever sense, which is a very romantic view on adoption, that a lost child finds its way to the people who love him. All of that’s true. But there are also other truths which are just as interesting but get glossed over.”

The novel, however, isn’t only about adoption. “I get to talk a lot about other things besides adoption. I get to talk about faith. How living with faith is very different from living with hope, which is kind of a useless thing and gets talked a lot about in literature. This thematic distinction between faith and hope, which I didn’t set out to do in the first place, was something that came to me as I was writing. This then gets to some other larger issues that I am interested in, which are form and language.”

Mridula contends that the novel is not so much about writing as it is about language. “It explores how we live in our language. What language does for us, particularly how it allows us to tell our story.”

The novel is divided into two parts and the narrative moves between past and present. The first half is about Annakutty and the second part tells the story of the adopted child, Asa Gardner.

“He loses his sense of self over and over again in losing language,” Mridula says and adds that the novel is also a wider critique of family and of society. “I think the idea that things go wrong because some mother didn’t raise her child right or the family as an institution is flawed. I don’t really buy that. I think we have bigger and more useful tasks ahead of us which are to look at the ways in which society supports or doesn’t support families.”

Banking on blogs

For her research, Mridula read several adoptee blogs.

“There have been some wonderful stories about people finding their parents, and the parents, it turns out, would have waited for all these years that they mention that their child would come back.”

Kerala, is in a sense, a character in the novel. While writing the novel Mridula re-discovered Malayalam literature. “It is the most experimental literature I have ever read,” says Mridula.

SRAVASTI DATTA

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