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Addressing the mind

Kathakal by M. Nandakumar

Kathakal by M. Nandakumar   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Kathakal by M. Nandakumar maps new terrain for readers of short stories

Love means getting back to the green leaves, yellow sunshine, and blue flowers. In love, he felt a definite geometric pattern emerging out of the total chaos of the universe,” reads a sentence in Eskimo, from Kathakal by M. Nandakumar.

Are his stories simple and straight forward? Concise and to-the-point? None of the above. Here is a writer who wields the pen to upset your reading habits. Your familiar sense of fiction. Your well-entrenched understanding of the Malayalam short story.

Nandakumar takes you to the frayed edges of a cloud and then it rains. Through the many sheets of water drops, you get to witness a nether land, hanging horizontally from a tree that has its roots and branches spreading till eternity.

It could be a page from the legend, as in Vaayilyakkunnilappan; or from the ever-expanding universe of the worldwide web as in Vaarthaali: Cyber Spacil Oru Pranaya Natakam; or even from the Advaita as in Mara. The umpteen possibilities of the written word, a language that encompasses eons of human experience, a milieu as complex and as layered as ours... Nandakumar draws freely from it all and makes no pretense of forced simplicity or even ‘readability’ while telling a story.

He indulges as much in the nuances of Malayalam – its usage and its uneven texture moulded over generations – as in a whole range of themes ranging from philosophy to technology to art to black magic to physics to architecture. They at once challenge, outrage, and tickle your grey cells. Pulling your heartstrings is rarely aimed at and it is being made amply clear from the way certain titles are given and a narrative is shaped.

For example, Aa Enna Shmashaanathile Naarakam (Lemon tree in a cemetery called Aa) is an account of three men sitting under a lemon tree talking about a woman.

There are stories called Chovva and Samayam and Parappanangadi where time, space, and linearity lose their shape and create uneven reflections of our inner lives.

There are two heart-rending narratives that catch the reader unawares. Shoonyasanam is a heady mix of cruelty, desire, and deceit. The part that paints a picture of how children can become inhumanly brutal with their unfettered imagination is simply powerful.

Lakshmanarekha underlines the futility of wars through the predicament of the pregnant wife of a soldier.

Given the detour from the road oft-travelled, it could sound surprising that humour emerges as Nandakumar’s forte in storytelling. Bubhukshamatham: Ulpathiyum Valarchayum hides many a pointed arrowhead at our utter readiness to defy logic in the name of religion. Sargaathmaka Rogasiddhaantham evokes pure laughter whereas Cannibal traces the ridiculous abyss of the Indian bureaucracy as well as the gradual deterioration of the Malayali revolutionary.

This book addresses the contemporary human mind trapped in a body that took millions of years of patient evolution to take shape.

Their reality and vitality, often marked by hyper texts and hyperbole, are the raw materials for its tales.

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they found knowledge but were ousted from paradise. In our time and age, enabled by the Internet, no knowledge is forbidden but paradise still seems faraway.

This illusory universe is what Nandakumar explores in his writing where a thousand stars collapse unto themselves in every breathing moment.

Kathakal

M. Nandakumar

DC Books

Rs.140   

 

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 6:39:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/kathakal-by-m-nandakumar-maps-new-terrain-for-readers-of-short-stories/article19169773.ece

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