26 October, 2020

Sole Custodians Of Lamplight

Stories by a titan of Malayalam literature speak up for oppressed, unhappy women, but eschew a radical cudgel for a subtly inclusive look

Sole Custodians Of Lamplight

Juxtaposing two stories in this anthology can project contrasting pictures about women belonging to social echelons perceived to be diametrically opposite. One is about the turmoil of a just-wido­wed Antharjanam, as the female is called in the priestly Nambutiri class. The other ends with the cheer of an equally young woman from an underprivileged community, soon after she gives birth to a child. “Then let this never-ending malady, hysteria, be your legacy,” shrugs the traditional healer about Tatri, on being told that her caste doesn’t permit widow remarriage. Lowly Teva, on the other hand, is proud when she says, “That’s how we Pulaya girls are!”, hugging her baby she delivered by the paddy field where she was reaping only a while ago.

The writer is no way trying to suggest that ladies of ‘lower’ classes in early 20th-century Kerala led a better life than their privileged counterparts. Social bou­ndaries blur in Lali­tha­mbika Antharj­a­nam’s stories—so much so, the traditional advantage...



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