Realism Society

A child’s eye: Review of Sheba Jose’s ‘Chamor’

A perspective less mired by the uncomfortable truths of life, narratives with a child’s voice at heart can be brutally honest.  Chamor is the story of five-year-old Simita, her innocence, curiosity and the special bond she shares with two people below her social class. From the cover to its setting, the book bears an uncanny resemblance to  The God of Small Things. But as Simi’s inner life is poured out, the similarities end. Sheba Jose’s debut work has a steady rhythm that doesn’t build up to a fierce intensity or heartbreaking crescendo.

Chamor begins and ends at Vranni, an idyllic village “within a sliver of State called Kerala” as the author puts it. Shalomi House, her ancestral home with its umpteen enticements, is where Simita meets Chamor, the houseboy hired by her grandparents. Majuri, the sultry small town in Tamil Nadu, forms the backdrop for the portions where her parents Sosha and Matthaai are introduced along with Jency, the live-in maid from Kerala.

Jency, who entered their lives as a teenager, is 21 now and is a well fleshed-out character, perhaps more interesting than anyone else. “Jency had grown up with a humble swing in her yard — nothing but a rough plank hung with stout ropes from a wild jackfruit tree, which, she said, used to be the only entertainment in her life” is something that sums up her early life. The novel portrays her loneliness, emotional turmoils and defence mechanisms. Even Chamor, the titular character, fails to intrigue the reader the way she does.

Chamor unravels as a string of delightful anecdotes tied together, all showcased from Simita’s vantage. There are chapters such as ‘Back Home but Not for Long’, ‘On the Train, Again!’, ‘Pneumonia: the Best Thing That Happened to Me’ and ‘Hostilities Begin’ that deftly capture the way a child’s antenna responds. But the best part about the book is the depiction of its settings. Both Vranni and Majuri are original place names with a slight spin and they come alive as breathing lifeforms. While the storyline of  Chamor may seem a little casual, its backdrops, the epicentres of all events, bring the narrative to life.

Chamor; Sheba Jose, Vintage Books, ₹599

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Printable version | Jun 7, 2022 6:42:16 pm |