Novel books in the Malayalam language being absolutely nil, I have been trying for a long time to write and publish such books so that I can earn the name, ‘the first Malayalam novel writer’, just as the great poet Valmiki won renown as the very first poet. I tried many a method to get this thing done. Thinking that translating an entire English novel word for word and publishing it with the claim ‘my own creation’ written on the cover would give the desired result, I tried my hand at translation. But I was deterred from this attempt by the fear that some of the gentlemen who have studied English might happen to read it and, to my misfortune, let the cat out of the bag. Though I know very well that the English people regard the very word Malayalam with distaste, I thought I would avoid further disappointment and so turned away from the task. Next, I thought of a method with a few alterations to this. I have read certain English books like ‘Waverly Novel’ and have found the stories in them very interesting. Deciding that collecting them together and making up a new story would do the trick, I started on the endeavor. But at the time Kundalata 1 was published. I was greatly disappointed because it would be well nigh impossible now to achieve the name, the first novelist. Even so I comforted myself with the thought that if the theme of the book I was about to write turned out to be more interesting than that of Kundalata my status would not be really lost. Still, I could not determine how to start the book and time passed as I pondered over the ways one by one. My first concern was how to gain fame effortlessly. That was taken away by the author of Kundalata. And no new idea came easily for starting on one of my own. As I struggled thus, Indulekha and Meenakshy entered the scene, creating a big fuss. Wherever I go, I hear talk of Panchu Menon and Soori Nambootiripatu.2 I was filled with envy and sorrow thinking that the prize I had been trying for long to attain would be lost to all these people. I beg my good readers to forgive this lapse on my part. As I thus spent my days gloomily, one morning I took up the book Indulekha and turning its pages idly, immersed as I was in my own thoughts, happened to go over its preface without paying much attention. When I read that it was the writer’s wife who had given him the encouragement for writing such a book, I felt that I had found the way out and felt easy of mind. At once I explained everything to my dearest and asked her to give me the inspiration required for the task at hand. What can you say of my plight then? When I started to talk seriously of the fame awaiting the author and the profit the sale of the book would bring in, as if they were great things, my wife, without a word in response went off to give the child its bath. I went after her without showing any ill feeling and repeated my request. Thereupon she turned to me and started to grumble, ‘If you have nothing else to do, why not plant a few banana saplings and see to watering them? I have other things to do. I have not yet given the child its bath, swept or mopped the floor, milked the cow….’ And went on to murmur umpteen jobs she had to get done. ‘What a bother this is! So stupid of me to go after her!’ So saying I backed off dejectedly.
And in this manner I continued in perplexity, wondering what to do and unable to decide anything, when I caught sight of a piece of advice in Vidyavinodini 3 entitled ‘the novel’. Not even Adiseshan 4 with his thousand tongues can describe the happiness I felt then. At once I started out to write a book along the lines the article prescribed. When I began writing, I found there was nothing easier in this world. I always pray God fervently that His Worshipful Highness The Honourable Sree Vengayil Kunjiraman Nayanar 5 shall live long in health, wealth and happiness, ever fit as a sixteen year old.
I have several reasons for giving the purely native name Parangodi Parinayam6 for my book, rather than more sophisticated names such as Janaki Parinayam or Rugmini Swayambaram. If I be remiss enough not to give my readers a prior knowledge of these facts, they would just take it casually and may never come to know of my extreme cleverness in using few words with a wealth of hidden meaning to meet all needs with the greatest ease. In the fear that my intelligence would then go unappreciated like the lotus that blooms in the midst of a forest, I take the freedom to elaborate on this and humbly request my readers not to presume that I am underestimating their powers of comprehension.
According to prevailing native legends on the nairs of Kerala they were the offspring of the celestial belles called the devastrees, brought down to earth by Sree Parasuraman7 long back for satisfying the carnal desires of the Kerala brahmins who were nambootiris. The deva strees accepted and gave sensual pleasure to all the people who died on earth and reached heaven to be bestowed with heavenly joys in acknowledgement of their good deeds, without discriminating them on the basis of caste or creed. They continued this tradition on earth too, granting favors to lovers of all class, like a kamadhenu8. So the children born to these descendants of deva strees were unable to say who exactly the father was; they only knew that it was a man. But because of the divine quality of the mothers the continuing generations suffered no loss of purity and are still considered godly. This ancient theory on the origin of our land does give us some consolation. But the theories of the modern scientists have given cause for others to laugh at this divine quality and the pride of self-propagation. The present consensus is that the nairs of Kerala were the original inhabitants of India and when the Aryans came to settle down in Kerala, they accompanied them as servants. The feminine names such as Indumathy, Kundalatha, Indulekha and the masculine names like Madhavan, Kesavan, Krishnan, Damodaran are those prevalent among the Aryans and so should never be used by those who preserve their genetic purity from their very origin, without interaction with the Aryans.
There is a general view that the progeny of mixed castes turn out better and the example cited is the mule, the offspring of the horse and the donkey. It might be so in the case of animals at times but human beings lacking genetic purity are often seen to be petty minded and behave idly however exalted a status they attain. The archaic names Parangodi and Parangodan, so very different from the names popular among the Aryans, testify to the fact that the hero and heroine of this book were born in families that have kept intact their genetic characteristics of manliness from time immemorial. To prove the point, we can make use of the titles given to the chieftans of Kerala dynasties. In olden days names such as Chathan Kandan, Chathu Unnaman etc were used, but now, with the association of the nambootiris, they have lost the identity of class and becoming cross breeds like the mules, have taken on names such as Raman and Krishnan. However, some old men I know, who are acquainted with the history of such chieftans, say that these families still use their original names as titles of their status. Since my readers might be familiar with these facts, the moment they hear the names Parangodan and Parangodi, they shall realize that the hero and heroine of this book are of noble blood without any prompting from my part. Still, I have strived thus in the belief that this description shall benefit those who are ignorant of the family heritage and greatness of names propounded by the chieftans of Kerala.
The next thing that my readers might find perplexing is my intention in giving prominence to the heroine. From what we observe daily, it is evident that whenever a young woman strives for success in anything that she desires, people overlook any number of blunders she commits. As soon as it became public that the author of Subhadrarjunam9 was a woman, not only the rare usage of Subhadra’s countenance as ‘the playground of cupid’s frolics’, but even such irrelevancies as the paper used for printing, the printing ink, etc were deemed beautiful. This piece of news cannot have yet faded from my readers’ memory. Thinking that the focus on a woman or at least her prescence in the centre of things would boost the popularity of this book, our heroine Parangodikutty leapt in front of me. I shall also reveal a few other reasons. It is seen that there is many a Parangodan amongst us who resemble our hero because of being educated in English but Parangodis of this type are comparatively rare in real life though one or two are pictured at length in books. So when we think it fitting to give prominence to rare things, Parangodikutty comes to the forefront. Above all, it being impossible for the readers to identify this holy land thus adorned by this hero and heroine, even after the whole book is read, the fact of the heroine occupying centre stage in all splendour shall supply the clue that this is a land where women have an exalted status.10 If at all you readers were to argue that these fancies are like the interpretation of the word Saraswathy in Saraswathy Vijayam11, kindly turn these pages without reading them.
At first I had intended to make the chapters of this book very long with even minute details. While I was wondering how I could keep from describing the color, species, exact length from tip to toe, girth etc of the water snake in Chapter One, the exact diameter of the unused pond, the height of the Englishman’s horse etc in detail, a friend proffered the timely advice that the younger generation of noble Malayalees prefer every thing to be as short as possible. To illustrate this point he asked me to ponder over the fact that well bred young men nowadays shaved only their face. I found this argument pertinent and so made the chapters as brief as I could, hoping to satisfy my readers. My wife actually only discouraged me but since I have great affection for her I express my gratitude to her, to the friend I mentioned earlier and specially to respected Kunjiraman Nayanar before I wind up this preface.
I also wish to mention in particular that I wrote this book entirely in one night. Even in that I could not put my full concentration as I had some other things to see to and was unable to lose sleep because of my physical condition. I cannot really recall all I have written since I was unable to read it a second time. I hope that if at all my readers chance to find any errors when reading the book, they shall remember these facts and excuse me and I am sure they would not hesitate to shower me with praise if they found any part of it enjoyable.
The second thing I have to mention in particular is that I have not fixed a definite price for my book. The reason is nothing but that once I fix some definite price, it is as if I myself limit its value. In case my readers think it worth more than what I thought I would look foolish. So I decided not to do anything myself. But I am quite willing to accept whatever my readers happily offer. I shall be gratified if my readers do two things in return for my endeavor. One is that all of you should read this book with full concenteration. And the other, that all of you should agree that even though three or four novel books have already been published in the Malayalam language, since I am the one who first mentally attempted it, all should agree that I shall be the one to be granted the title. ‘the first novelist in the Malayalam language’.
As the saying in Sanskrit, ‘what is done in thought is the actual deed; not what is done by hand’. I can say on oath that I am the one who wrote the first Malayalam novel in the mind. So it should be taken that all others were born after that.
The author of the first malayalam language novel
Going to the pond and catching sight of a water snake
Once upon a time, there was a state called Rajathamangalam somewhere in the long landline of India extending from the Himalayas to the ocean. And a king called Rajatheswaran. A minister called Thamranathan. A wife called Kanakamangala. When King Rajatheswara had conquered fifty six subject states and ruled as the unquestioned monarch of the time, people of all the different castes such as Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vysyas and Sudras1 carried out their respective religious rituals diligently so that the land prospered throughout. The Goddess Ganga, flowing through the enemy cities of Rajatheswara, gathered scattered gems taking them for burning embers, threw pieces of sandalwood over them and blew with half closed eyes, whereupon a swarm of bees followed her intoxicating breath resembling black smoke2. At the same time she made the world such a blinding white by the name and fame of this great emperor that Lord Vishnu had to hunt for his ocean of milk, Lord Siva for Kailasa, his abode of snow, Indra for his white elephant Iravata, Rahu for the moon and Brahma for his swan3. In the north south region of the capital of this kingdom that flourished so under the brilliant rule of King Rajatheswaran with the land and sea all aglow with virtue and impressive to behold, there was an eminent temple of Lord Vishnu. Panga Marar of Melkulangara House, who worked in this temple as kazhakakkaran4, had a nephew named Parangodan, a wife named Parikkampachilil MookkandiAmma and a daughter named Parangodi. When Parangodi and Parangodan were small children, they happened to see a harmless water snake while washing their faces at the unused pond in the northern part of the grounds one morning. Thereupon ensued such a conversation between them:
Parangodi : Hey, hey, hey see, a water snake- see, there it is.
Parangodan : yes, yes, I have seen it. Don’t touch it. I want to catch it. I shall make a snare with a broomstick.
So saying he went off to the coconut tree standing close to the northern fence of the property and tried to reach up to a palm leaf. Suddenly he saw an Englishman seated on a horse trotting along the road that ran close to the fence.
As stated in the first chapter, our Parangodi and Parangodan, frightened by the sight of an Englishman on horseback ran off from the poolside. As they reached the northern yard of Parikkampachil House, Panga Marar of Melkulangara House and wife were seated on the northern verandah with the betel box open between them. When they saw the children in distress, both of them put off the betel chewing and Mookkandi Amma stepped down into the yard to see what had happened. Seeing a figure half human and half animal-like speeding down the road she was astounded.
Mookkandi Amma (alarmed) : Look at this. A devil is running away. I have never seen such a creature in my lifetime. Oh, My God!
So saying she grabbed the children’s hands and going indoors tried to close the door. Marar also got down into the yard to see what the matter was. He grasped the fact and pacified the others with the explanation that what they had seen was actually an Englishman riding a horse.
Beating A Drum
Close to the Vishnu temple mentioned in the first chapter, there was a variam5. A varasyar6 named Pappy lived there. Pappy Varasyar was very young and not bad to look at. Anyway, the nambootiri7 who was the priest of the temple was apparently infatuated by her. One day, when the noon rituals in the temple were over, the nambootiri embarked to the above said varasyar’s house after enjoying a good lunch. Pappy varasyar welcomed him with all the suitable paraphernalia of greeting a special guest. When the nambootiri had seated himself on the steps, she took a stand beside him in servile humility.
Nambootiri : (smiling) I have been intending to come and see you for a few days now. But I was busy and could not come till today.
Pappy varasyar : (folding her hands humbly) I must say it is my good fortune that Your Highness has felt this way.
Nambootiri : (laughing aloud) That’s great! The humor in your words is really enjoyable. Actually I came over now to talk of certain matters. But I wonder why not I spend my night here?
Pappy : If Your Highness decides so, what is the problem? Am I so lucky that I can sit by the side of Your Highness?
Nambootiri : Pappy! Shouldn’t I speak the truth? See, I am overcome by a great infatuation. So I thought let it be done. After all there is the saying, the sooner the better. So I decided to do it now itself. Why, don’t you think it right?
Words cannot describe Pappy Varasyar’s delight on hearing of the nambootiri’s desire. It is no secret that since in Kerala the nambootiris are supposed to be more respectable than others, everyone desired an alliance with them. Those of the castes involved with the temple were considered even more special. So it was no wonder that Pappy Varasyar’s eyes filled with tears of joy at the thought of the good fortune she was about to have. As soon as she grasped the nambootiri’s intentions, she went into the bedroom, dusted and did up the bed, pushed in the cotton that had bulged out in places and spread out a laundered sheet neatly over it. She took up the mat laid on the floor, folded it into four and hung it on the clothesline tied before the bedstead. She arranged two oil and two ghee lamps in the four corners of the room, then found one of the better mats, not all that soiled, and spread it out on the floor near the cot. In the betel box she put together all the things needed for chewing betel and placed it in the centre of this mat. She then scrubbed a bronze spittoon till it shone and stood it beside the mat. When all was ready she went out to the nambootiri and humbly invited him inside. The nambootiri was overwhelmed by Pappy Varasyar’s devotion, respect, decorum, sensibility and her tidy habits. He at once got up and entered the bedroom. Pappy Varasyar closed the door to the patio outside and went after him to tend to his needs. She stood diligently in front of the bedroom, half hidden behind the wall but with one foot over the threshold, waiting for instructions. The nambootiri saw the mat spread out all ready for him and sat down on it. At this time our Panga Marar happened to come by. Seeing that the priest of the temple had gone in and shut the door, he went at once to the temple, brought out his drum to the varasyar’s house, stood outside and began to beat it. It is impossible to reckon how furious and aggrieved the nambootiri became. He went at once to the king and raised the complaint that he had been so insulted. The king called for the marar to offer explanation whereupon Panga Marar requested the king to examine the order given earlier when the nambootiri had complained that the marar did not play his drum when the nambootiri shut the door for his pooja. The king called his manager and asked about the previous order and found that it had stated unequivocally that ‘whenever the nambootiri went in and shut the door’8 the marar was obliged to beat his drum. Thus everyone was pacified by the fact that the marar was only following the king’s orders.
A feast for devotees
Since Parikkampachilil Mookkandi Amma had no children, she had prayed to Pazhani Velayudha Swami9 for a child, promising a feast for impoverished devotees. It was after this that she gave birth to a girl child. Before the girl turned sixteen Mookkandi Amma saw to it that the feast was conducted most satisfactorily.
On the nephew becoming a lawyer and
the daughter attaining puberty
Our heroine Parangodikutty was growing up fast. ‘Her hair has grown long and thick and her breasts have filled out. Her desire for fun has also grown.’10. She had also attained puberty. On that very day as Panga Marar and Mookkandi Amma sat together on the patio in the front of the house tête-à-tête, the postman came up and handed over a letter. Upon reading it they came to know that their nephew had qualified as a lawyer and they retired very much pleased.
It was the time of the special festival of Kodungallur temple when all that stated in chapter five took place. When our lawyer was coming home after the closing of the court, he saw on the way people going to the festival. As the conversation that ensued has to be related as a chapter in itself, this chapter is concluded here.
How the gun was dried in the sun and
the rope of fun broken
It is mainly the people of northern Kerala who attend the Kodungalloor Bharani 11. It is better not to describe the way they prepare to go to the festival four days before its commencement, shamelessly singing whatever foul words that come to their tongue, lugging cocks for sacrificing before the goddess, wearing a woollen half shirt and a pointed cap popularly called pazhanithoppi. ‘Our women step down to the poolside with no shame or hesitation and begin rubbing oil all over their body, resting their legs on the upper step and using powdered bark for soap, scrub at certain organs to clean off the oil and dirt, intermittently eyeing the men standing around in a coy manner’12. My mind does not allow this type of writing. If at all I were to attempt it, it is doubtful whether any cultured person would consider sullying his mind with such derisive annotations. But some writers have written in length about such vulgarities and found fulfillment in publishing it. Some of you readers might be wondering how they could be proud enough to feel self congratulatory about such a thing. To explain, it is adequate that I cite here a small incident that actually took place.
A brahmin in Thrissur, being born at that time of the day that had Goddess Saraswathy’s blessing13, thought that he was more intelligent than others and that all that came out of his mouth was pure poetry. Coming to know of this delusion of the poor brahmin, certain witty fellows took it upon themselves to praise his intelligence and poetic abilities whenever possible in his hearing so that the man came to have implicit belief in his capability. One day when he visited a well known homestead, the people there asked him to compose a new poem then and there and to recite it for them. Nonchalant enough, our poet thought for just a minute and came up with the stanza given below. He recited it with a grand air.
‘He partook of boiled rice only, even so
He tasted just pumpkin curry, even so
He did not have any oil baths, even so
The King’s anemia kept on soaring.”
After having recited this, he thought some more and then uttered the words ‘even so’. When asked what it meant, he said he was putting right the slight mistake he had made at the end of the last line. Nobody got the point, so he elaborated. Since the first three lines had ended with ‘even so’, it was wrong that the last line had a different sound at the end and so it had to be ‘the king’s anemia kept on soaring even so’. Everybody accepted this explanation and applauded the brahmin’s wisdom and his ability to compose poems on the spot. The brahmin lapped it all up as his due and went away gratified. I conclude herewith stating just the fact that it is a similar gratification that the writers mentioned in the beginning feel14. Let that story be left so.
The nairs from northern Kerala who had come to celebrate the Bharani festival had words with the southern nairs by the poolside and it soon developed into a quarrel. The southern nairs made up a story that a person of eminence from the north literally put his gun to dry in the sun15 on his wife’s advice. The northerners retaliated by saying that a certain southern gentleman had had a rope tied to his ear and held taut as he listened to a carnatic music recital, but the rope broke off midway and so he asked the musician to stop singing because ‘the rope of interest’16 was cutoff, leaving him unable to pick out and enjoy the different phases of the recital. Our lawyer Parangoda Marar stood by the poolside immersed in these mutual disputes for a time. Then he also returned to his house.
Parangodi’s distress and Parangodan’s discomfiture
On the southern side of Parikkampachil House there was another homestead named Thamarakkulam. Kandappa Menon, Mookkandi Amma’s elder brother and the head of her family, had alliance17 with Ittichiri Amma of this homestead. Ittichiri Amma had a son named Pangan. Both Kandappa Menon and Ittichiri Amma had in mind the wish that Pangan should have an alliance with Parangodikutty. But they had not divulged it so far. When Parangodikutty attained puberty, Kandappa Menon decided that it was time to talk of his wish to his sister. Mookkandi Amma found it a suitable alliance as the boy was her own brother’s son, of the same caste and especially of sound financial status. Anyhow she replied that she would seek her husband’s opinion and inquire about the daughter’s interest and decide matters in two days’ time. That night when PangaMarar returned home, she called her daughter and told both of them all that Kandappa Menon had said. I have not given the readers details of Parangodikutty’s beauty, family status or educational qualifications as yet since there seemed no need for it .But now they are of extreme relevance and so I go on to state them
The ancient family of Parikkampachil was an eminent one. The men of the family had for years been Divanjis or Divanbheshkars18. The present head of the family, Kandappa Menon was offered the post of Divan two or three times but he could not accept it as there were no other male member in the family to see to things. Kandappa Menon’s elder brother Korappa Menon Divanji would have liked to keep the hereditary job within the family itself. But there was no male successor in the family. When he was thus disconsolate, Mookkandi Amma became pregnant. There is no limit to the money Korappa Menon spent on caring for the pregnant woman. God alone knows how many concoctions were prepared and charmed to be given to the pregnant woman for easy and safe delivery. By the time this was done for two or three months, Appa Sasthrikal, the seer who cast spells on the concoctions, became rich and started a new business. Mannan Chakku, who wrote out the prescriptions for the various medicines, acquired wet lands for sowing two hundred paras19 of paddy seeds which approximated to an extent of 28 acres, though his left thumb had become numb as a rock with all the writing done. The astrologer, Kelu Panickar, consulted the zodiac and predicted the birth of a baby boy. On a bit of palm leaf he wrote baby girl, folded and bound it and gave it to Mookkandi Amma secretly for safe keeping till the delivery was over with the warning that it should not be opened till then. After ten months when a baby girl was born, the doctor and the seer were given a mozhapattu20 each. But Kelu Panickar was not effaced. He asked them to read aloud the palm leaf document he had entrusted with Mookkandi Amma. On it were the words, ‘Parikkampachilil Mookkandi Amma bears in her womb a female foetus. If I go wrong in this prediction, I shall refrain from doing my astrological work in future. I pledge by my tradition.’ Need I elaborate on how much Panickar’s status was elevated henceforth? The Divanji honored him with golden bracelets for each arm and a great many other gifts. And he went on his way.
The child grew up. When she was three or four she was initiated into studies. Korappa Menon Divanji was so fond of her that he took her with him to see to her education. Once her teacher commending her on her ability said that if she had been a boy there would have been no doubt as to who would succeed as the next Divan. Whereupon Korappa Menon Divanji was overwhelmed by a dream. ‘In England the ruler is a lady now. We also hear that there many English ladies are entering various professions and doing their job as well as any man. Who knows of Parangodikutty’s fortune? If she studies English and other matters to become really smart, the King might very well have a change of heart. Anyhow I must educate her in English’. So deciding, he sent her to school. When Parangodikutty turned sixteen, Korappa Menon had a spurt of breathlessness and passed away suddenly. Thereafter Parangodikutty stopped going to school and settled down in her own home. This is the early part of Parangodikutty’s history.
Now she has completed eighteen years. As people differ in their concept of beauty, if I describe her looks in the way one segment see her, the others may not appreciate it. So I shall just say that she pleased each and every eye that fell on her. Let the readers contemplate on how it comes about, according to their sensibilities. I have stated earlier of her great intelligence. If she hears something once, it is retained as if etched in stone. She had learnt to read and write English very well. She had also studied the mechanics of trains, steamships, telegraph etc. She was also adept at needlework. When our Parangoda Marar became a lawyer, she had stitched a most singular cap21 for him and sent it to him as a gift. All around it was embroidered ‘Parangodan’ in English letters with glittering thread which at first glance seemed to be creepers spreading around. Parangodan’s English friends on seeing this fine craftsmanship was amazed that there were such gifted needlewomen among the Nairs. Parangodikutty was not enamoured of the typical Kerala ornaments. She was usually dressed in skirt and jacket.
Parangodan and Parangodi had pledged themselves to each other22 in childhood itself, but no one knew of it. Because she had studied English, she had acquired an expanse of wisdom and moral courage that induced a sense of independence. Everyone knew that she was not fool enough to follow whatever well thought out advice her parents or other well wishers proffered, but would only stick to her own decisions. People called this arrogance but Parangodikutty was wise enough to discern that this was merely due to blind stupidity and though she thought of them with contempt, never showed it outwardly.
Though Parangodikutty was the type with great courage and independence, she was perturbed on hearing her mother’s words. She stood there for some time without saying anything. Then she went into her room and shut the door. She wrote a letter to our lawyer then and there and sent it urgently to be posted. The next day Parangodan lawyer received the letter. On opening it he was so elated to see his sweetheart’s handwriting that he stood for a while unable to do anything at all. Then he began to read thus:
My mother and other relatives have decided to have Kandappa Uncle’s son arrange an alliance with me. As long as my body is here I shall not agree to it. I have given this body to you a long time back. What is given cannot be taken back. Our people do not have the slightest inkling of English and so lack the developed sense to grasp the wonders of love between man and woman. What can we do! They could at least read the remarkable Malayalam novels written recently resembling English ones. What could they lose by it? But no, they don’t care for that either. When they are free they only read the epics or books on the duties of a faithful wife or some such silly matter that has no entertainment value whatsoever to while away the time. When one thinks of how Meenakshy23 relinquished the ruler himself for the sake of her lover lawyer, what is so shocking about my saying no to a Pangan for the sake of my lawyer? If he is our relative, let him be invited for the family functions. I do not want him,which is for sure. My beloved must never abandon me. Only then would my mind know sorrow in this birth. As soon as you get this letter you must start at once and come over. Since uncle is a silly villager he might be precipitous in his rage. We need not be bothered. After all I am past eighteen. Now there is no need to be afraid of lame arguments such as I am a minor etc. Did not Indulekha marry her Madhavan 24 in secret and leave with him for Madras ignoring Panchu Menon’s wishes? Later on did not Panchu Menon compromise? Likewise, Kandappa Uncle will also come our way in due course. So I request you once again to come and take me with you.
Your dependant, Parangodikutty.’
On reading this letter, our lawyer stood still for a while like a thunder struck tree, blinded by the shock of it. He knew beforehand that Kandappa Menon was a powerful person. However reluctant Parangodikutty might be, he doubted that she might as well be subdued by the adamant stance of the head of the family. Our lawyer was indeed exceedingly discomfited when he thought of it all.
Our lawyer was hounded by a hundred and one thoughts on reading Parangodikutty’s letter and was highly disturbed throughout the day. He tried twice or thrice to compose a reply. Since none came out right he put it away and set off to Court. He failed at all the cases of the day and came back in the evening. Though he sat down before his plate for dinner he did not feel like swallowing even a single bite. So he went to bed and tried to sleep. But his body seemed to burn and sweat. Lying down he felt like sitting up. After a while he would lie down once again only to see Parangodikutty before his closed eyes. He would then open his eyes and get up to look around. Seeing but darkness all around, he would foolishly lie down. Thus somehow he spent the night, lying down, sitting up, walking about and kicking at things25. The day broke. A slight breeze began to blow. The moon’s rays began to lose their brightness. The east, fully pregnant with the sun, started having labor pains and had the birds and early insects begin wailing. The cuckoos commenced singing ever so sweetly and melodiously from the sky, seeming to be the singers preceding the sun god’s procession. Just as ignorance dissipates on the dawning of wisdom, so the darkness began to disappear as the sun rose in the east and it escaped to hide in women’s heavy hair and dens in hillsides. Lotus flowers26 began to bloom in the way the hearts of the virtuous do when they behold scholars. The water lily drooped as Sati’s heart27 on being separated from her husband. As if to prove to the people that the ignorant cannot shine in the company of learned men, the stars began to fade away. When the priests took up their water jugs, went to the river ghats, had their bath and performed ganapathy homam28 and other morning rituals, smoke started to rise from the roofs of dwellings as if sins were escaping in front of our very eyes. Their wives brushed their teeth, cleaned themselves and began to do such household tasks as sweeping, mopping and churning the curds. Lovers came out of their beloveds’ abodes reluctantly with reddened eyes as they had spent sleepless nights revelling in lovemaking. Their mates, upset by the imminent parting, followed and hugging them from behind, bandied such silly blandishments as ‘how shall I stay alive till we meet again’ so passionately as to make them think twice about departing. Cattle started to seek fresh pastures among the woods. Workmen hurried to work places, lugging their tools, in the worry that they might be late. Our lawyer Panga Marar also woke up and went down the stairs to begin his day.
Downstairs he brushed his teeth and drank a cup of tea. His office room was already crowded with clients. They stood up on seeing the lawyer. He included them all in a glance and murmuring Good Morning, pulled out a chair and sat down. The clerk brought in the case files for the day. He opened a file and taking out a paper began to read it. Nothing entered his mind. He read it once more. Words from Parangodikutty’s letter intruded into it. Deciding that this would spoil his good name as a lawyer, he went to his neighbor, who was also a lawyer and a friend and asked him to take up his cases till he returned. When the friend agreed, he handed over his clients and case files. Coming back to his house, he took up a suitcase, threw in a few dresses, folded a travel bed and asking a servant to carry them to the railway station, he too walked to the station. Our Marar lawyer returned to his native place by that day’s train.
A conversation or The Eighteenth Chapter
Though it was mentioned in the eighth chapter that some relatives had thought of Pangassa Menon, son of Ittichiri Amma belonging to Thamarakulathil House, starting an alliance with Parangodikutty, nothing was said of his virtues and vices. Now Pangassa Menon has turned twenty five. He was very good looking. Neither too tall nor too short, he was a rather stout man, not very fair nor really dark in complexion. His hair, when released from the kuduma, the traditional hairstyle, was so long as to sweep the ground. He always bore a pleasant expression. He had learnt to write and to do arithmetic very well. Though his lack of learning in English had deprived him of certain qualities required in the present day context, it had also spared him from many a vice, young men were wont to acquire along with English education. He was well versed in Sanskrit. He was mature, polite to elders, commiserate of another’s sorrow, considerate in social service, afraid of scandal and indifferent to another’s wealth and wife. Though young, he was approached whenever there was a dispute and both parties readily accepted his advice. As he was trained in farming from an early age, he was adept at it. People often wondered how he alone was able to save his crops when his neighbors suffered loss. He was an extremely lucky man. Though painfully reluctant to spend money on extravagancies, he never hesitated to meet actual needs. By his own efforts he had acquired land that fetched twenty thousand measures of paddy when leased out and also had a money lending business for one lakh rupees. To add to these, he had substantial wealth given by his father. Though so well off at such an early age, even his enemies did not dare say that Pangassa Menon was vain or overbearing. Usually he wore a thick dhothi of the type sported by the Southerners and a towel flung over his shoulder. But he insisted that both should be washed white daily. As ornaments he always wore a pair of earrings studded with red stones in the Thiruvananthapuram style, a pavithra mothiram29 and two rounded rings of gold on the ring finger of the right hand, a signet ring on the little finger and a golden thread at the waist. He was not ostentatious enough to bedeck himself like a casanova and was also contemptuous of those who did so. He had two younger sisters, an aunt and four children of hers. The older of the sisters was of the same age as Parangodikutty. Her name was Ammalu. The second one was still a child; she was called Ammukutty. As he ruled over this household with tender care, all the members considered his likes and dislikes as their own with no thought whatsoever of dissent. When he was but a boy, his parents used to fondly call him Appukuttan and all the members of the household continued to do so even after he had grown up.
One evening, when supper was over, Pangassa Menon was taking a stroll in the eastern yard, enjoying the breeze. Ittichiri Amma also came out when she had finished eating and stood on the front patio for a while, talking of household matters. Then she told her son that she had something private to discuss and took him upstairs to her own quarters. She opened the bay window on the western side of the outer room and seated herself on it. Asking her son to sit beside her she began to speak as follows.
Ittichiri Amma : Appukuttan, I am worried that if Ammukuty’s marriage is prolonged, she might go astray. Though only eleven, the way she is growing up makes me feel that she will certainly attain puberty next year.
Pangassa Menon : Father says the wedding should be conducted in January. It seems there are two or three auspicious muhurtas30 then.
I.Amma : It is better not to delay anymore. If it is done one day earlier so much lighter the mind shall be. Our neighbor Parukutty is only six months older to Ammukutty. Didn’t we hear that she became mature yesterday? Ever since I came to know of it I have been haunted by this thought. Whatever difficulties there are, Ammukutty’s wedding should not be prolonged.
P.Menon : I also have decided to have it conducted in January. But looking at this year’s yields, I do not think it possible to have an elaborate function.
I.Amma : oh, let it be as possible. We have to move with the times. (Falling into a trance for a while, then smiling slightly) Let that be, do we not need an auntie to put the anklets on the bride at the wedding?
Pangassa Menon sat with bent head without making any response.
I.Amma : Wouldn’t it be a shame if everything is not complete? Your father has been asking about this repeatedly. I forgot to tell you. Even yesterday night he asked whether Appukuttan was planning to live like this forever. It is a discredit not to have things done at the proper time. So it is high time to look for a girl from a good family and decide things, said your father. What are your thoughts on this matter, Appukuttan?
P.Menon : Why, has father heard any gossip about me because things have not been done at the proper age?
I.Amma : He never said that. But I too feel it time to fix up something. The children also talk of it all the time. They say there is no fun without an elder sister-in- law in the house.
P.Menon : What should I say, Mother? Whatever you and father decide is fine for me.
I.Amma : That may be right. But these things are not to be decided by others. We shall all agree to what is in your mind. We insist on one thing only, do not bring in some trifling thing or other into the house.
P.Menon : Has father got someone in mind?
I.Amma : He did not say anything definite. But a few days back when we were talking of other things, he did say why not Appukuttan have an alliance with Parangodikutty.
P.Menon : What did you say in answer, Mother?
I.Amma : What have I to answer for that, son? Parangodikutty is your father’s niece. So according to the custom, she is your bride.
Pangassa Menon fell silent and sat with bent head.
I.Amma : (laughing) Why don’t you say something, Appukuttan? Don’t you like the proposal? If it pleases your father, let it be so, isn’t it?
P.Menon : Have you forgotten what you said but a moment ago, Mother? Did you not say that these things will not work well if decided by others?
I.Amma : That is all true. But what real objection can you have against father’s wish? Can you deny that Parangodikutty is a beautiful girl? To me it seems as if she has an equally good nature too. She is also smart. After all, how many girls among us have studied English and other such things? And we have been related to that household from way back. It is better to preserve that too.
P. Menon –All that you say is important. But if you won’t take it as impertinence, I shall tell you what my objections are.
I.Amma : Okay, let me also hear what they are.
P.Menon : No one shall deny that Parangodikutty is good to look at. But I do not think that her nature and English education are so good
I.Amma : This is amazing. Is the fact that the girl has good education the cause for your disdain?
P.Menon : I think Mother has misread my words. I did not mean that women should not have learning. That is indeed essential. But I am not so sure that Parangodikutty’s special accomplishments are really useful to us.
I.Amma : Why not?
P.Menon : If you want, I shall explain. Didn’t you say that Parangodikutty’s grasp of English is very strong? For us, what purpose does it serve? I am not an Englishman; my mother tongue is Malayalam. We have no transactions with foreigners. So I cannot understand what advantage we gain with her exceptional knowledge of English. If you argue that it is good to know another language, then why stop with English? Why not learn French too? And it is even better if you learn Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and all the other languages that people all over the world speak. But what do women, especially our women gain by learning to speak umpteen different tongues? In that time they can very well learn something useful. And then, you say Parangodikutty’s needlework is outstanding. Why, are we going to make a living as dressmakers? If so we would need Parangodikutty, but that is not the case. There is a reason for English women learning to sew. Their style of dress demands a lot of stitching, which poor people cannot afford; their earnings will all have to be spent on dressmakers. So if the woman of the house does the needlework a lot of money can be saved. So for the English it is necessary that their women are taught stitching and sewing. Our women wear only dhothi and towel. How much stitching does one need to know for that? At the most, that is needed for hemming the loose ends and marking for laundry. I think all our girls do learn that much without any fuss. So, as far as we are concerned Parangodikutty’s knowledge of language and craftsmanship is useless. Now, do you believe that studying English broadens one’s mind, Mother? I can illustrate that it is also baseless. Man acquires knowledge through education; but education does not mean learning languages. The effort to acquire knowledge that helps one discern the things that are to be followed or discarded in one’s lifetime constitutes real learning. According to ancient precepts, this education has to be gleaned partly from the teacher and partly through one’s own efforts, some from other students and the rest from experience. What we should next think of is how the learning of language contributed to this. For that, first of all we have to examine the beginning of language itself. Man invented certain methods to make others understand what he was thinking of. The most important of it was to name all the things differently and to pronounce them according to need. Since the people of each region pronounced words in a different way, different languages emerged. There followed the need to make it useful for those living far away and those of the future. For this purpose the script was invented. As time elapsed certain scholars began recording what they had weaned from their personal experiences and contemplation for the benefit of others and compiling them into books. Thus the language that had the greater number of scholars came to have more books to its credit and in due course languages also began to have a scale of value. When anyone wanted other sources of knowledge in addition to that imbibed by the association with virtuous people, it became essential that he had comprehension of a language graced by a large number of scholars. Since there were many great men amongst the English, that language must have become great. The same may be true of the French language too. I am unable to judge their worth since I have no inkling of both. I have learnt Sanskrit, so I can say something of its merits and flaws. Nobody can say that they know it all as the Sanskrit language is so very vast like the ocean. Sanskrit was the mother tongue of the Hindus among whom there were more eminent scholars than in any other language. So I can confidently say that however hard one strives throughout a lifetime there will remain hundreds of great books still to be learnt.
I.Amma : Is it of such a remarkable language that lawyer Parangoda Marar spoke of so very derisively the other day? I heard him tell your father that the verses in Sanskrit are obscene and children’s intellect would be affected adversely if they studied it.
P.Menon : I have also heard our farmer Sankaran speaking likewise of the English language. He commented that if we were to learn English we would loose humility and respect for elders and everything would turn upside down. Now it is evident that there is another to overtake him.
I.Amma : Why, Appukuttan, why are you speaking nonsense? How can you compare the High Court lawyer Parangoda Marar to farmer Sankaran? It is a sin to humiliate great people.
P.Menon : it is not my intention to humiliate anybody. If Parangoda Marar is a High Court lawyer he can very well clear doubts on the Civil Code or the science of evidence. But he has no idea of the Sanskrit language. Nor does Sankaran have any notion of English. So their opinion on the respective languages can only be equally baseless. I am not trying to put down Parangoda Marar. I only argue that it is sufficient to give him what is due for the qualification he actually possesses.
I.Amma : If it is as you imply, we only need to learn our mother tongue, Malayalam.
P.Menon : Who says that Malayalam is a mean language? If there were original works in Malayalam as there are in Sanskrit, I would have said that it had no deficiency at all. There used to be great scholars in Malayalam, but their knowledge was expressed in the Sanskrit language only. And so, unfortunately Malayalam did not get the chance to establish its presence. Now this language is not adequate to provide scientific knowledge.
I.Amma : Let us leave that. You yourself said earlier that there are scholars among the Englishmen and that they have written many an original work for the benefit of other people. And you are sure that Parangodikutty is well versed in the English language. So English education must have done her as much good as learning Sanskrit would have done. What is your answer to that? Come on, tell me.
P. Menon : Your argument is certainly logical, Mother. The only flaw in the reasoning is that which comes of the definition given to the word ‘education’. Mother, can it be that you have not paid proper attention to what I said earlier about education? I do not believe education means mere competence in language. I am not at all convinced that though Parangodikutty has learnt the English language she has been able to acquire the education that English people do.
I.Amma : If what you say is right our boys also go to school and just learn the English language. Because Parangodikutty also went to school she has learnt all that is taught there.
P.Menon : Is there any doubt about it? If you think that going to school and learning to pronounce some newfangled words makes one a great scholar, my mother is really stupid. I shall give you a brief history of an ordinary school boy who follows the present system of education. Please do tell me your opinion on hearing it.
I.Amma : (laughing) Go on, let me also hear how these things are done.
P.Menon : Okay, then listen. I shall start from the beginning. I do not have to tell you that our children have no particular lessons till they are three or four years old. At that time their guardians take them to Kozhikode or some such city to be enrolled in schools. There they find lodgings for the children at some brahmin’s house, pay three or four rupees for their food etc and come back. Thereafter the children are on their own. It is doubtful whether the brahmin will bother much about their upbringing when he has his own brood to look after. In school they learn that the earth rotates on its own axis and that Tippu Sultan is the son of Hyderali. They do not receive any tuition on religious matters or moral conduct. Religion is a strong fortress that safeguards man from evildoing. We have not heard of any caste that has attained moral excellence without religious faith. Without any notion of such great religious principles the children spend their childhood always repeating, one house — one fox — a cat has four legs — etc. It is generally accepted that adolescence is a phase similar to a deep river that mankind finds exceedingly difficult to cross. If there is no proper guide, like a pole to a ferryboat, during this time, ninety nine out of a hundred fall into danger and turn into insolent brats. Just because one possesses sharp intelligence and quick grasping power, it does not follow that he be virtuous. It can only be that those who are intelligent become adept at whatever they choose to do. It is the rule that school children have to be present in the school by ten in the morning. There is no question as to what they did till that time. When the bell rings four in the evening they are free to go. No question as to what they do after that either. If the student studies what he is taught well he gets promotions and prizes. Other than that, the teachers do not enquire about the children’s moral conduct or the company they keep. Even as they are reaching out for the first standard reader, a snuffbox finds place in their pockets. Taking out the cigar from the mouth seems to signify a loss of prestige. They find that having whisky and soda with a piece of ice, cools down the body in summer. They begin to think in the vein, ‘What temple’, ‘What rituals’, ‘I don’t need the salvation attained by bowing before a piece of rock and going without food.’ They develop the ability to question a lot of things like ‘Who is God? Has anybody seen Him? All such nonsense can be sold to the poor fools who live in villages. We cultured people who have studied English and become urbanized will not be taken in by it.’ And as time passes they become an indeterminate sect with neither the characteristics of Hindus nor that of Christians. By the time they learn who Tippu Sultan is, they forget who they themselves are. The bad company they keep lead them into all sorts of bad habits and they learn atrocities that the human intellect cannot even dream of. Unable to discriminate freedom from caprice they become totally arrogant. By the time all the money saved meticulously by the family and sent forth, that borrowed from others and that extracted from the parents on some pretext or other are all extravagantly spent, they cultivate the art of striding about on the streets and by poolsides dressed in an extraordinarily long dhothi that trails on the ground gathering dust and is stepped on often and a half shirt over it, with a backpack over the shoulder, a cigar in the mouth, a snuffbox to hand and brandishing a walking stick. One can then assume that their education is complete. If intelligent enough, he finds the school lessons easy enough and along with the increase in wickedness of nature, he ascends classes too. He passes one or two exams and then sets off to Madras. There his ambition is to become an Englishman. He begins to forget Malayalam. Even while giving instructions to the servant he finds it a pleasure to insert three or four English words and getting used to this way of speaking his style of conversation turns into one that neither Englishmen nor Malayalees can follow. By the time he completes the B.A.B.L course in this manner and comes out after having written the examination, the family backbone is well nigh broken. But the members of the family wait with expectant looks and persistent smiles in the hope that ‘my child’ or ‘my brother’ will land a good job and shower gold over all of them. But the boy’s intentions are not in that direction. He does not even like to set a foot in Kerala. ‘Where does the head of the family dictate terms? Even among the barbarians of America, do the sisters have any right to family property? Our matrilineal family system is all wrong; it has to be changed to the patrilineal with all the members having an equal share’. He waxes eloquent on such issues. ‘The ornaments used in Kerala will be mocked at even by the aborigines of Africa. I am ashamed to admit that I am a Malayalee when the Europeans make fun of our women’s dress. I feel mortified when I speak Malayalam. Are the vegetables of Kerala as tasty as those of England? How foolish it is to eat off a banana leaf, why cannot we use knife and fork? Is the climate of Kerala as pleasant as that of England? When we see the idiocy and innocence of the people we feel they belong to the period of Adam and Eve.’ In this manner he comes to hate the very word Malayalam. He comes to believe that all he has is English. All in all, one feels that he has been born and brought up in England. It is indeed a sad sight when this boy returns like an untamed animal with no worldly knowledge, maturity or local know how, once his Madras education is complete. What has he gained by studying English? He can speak English fluently, but for intellectual caliber and practical wisdom he has to be educated all over again. Members of each caste have their own rituals and customs they are bound to practice within the system. The boy, because of his English education is no good at either. Maintaining the preconceived notion that all those who cannot speak English are idiots, he is contemptuous of the local customs and manners. But the English do not include him in their group, even though he desires it and so he has no way of learning the etiquette they keep amongst them. So, as time passes he does what he wants. If he sees a foreigner with long beard and hair he also grows both. After a while he thinks it better to shave off the beard and grow just the hair and at once puts it into practice. The third idea is why not have a moustache without beard or long hair. One day he deems it good fun to lounge by the table while eating lunch and does so. The next day he has it sitting on the table. And so from dawn till dusk he follows a thousand and one methods of doing things as and when they come to his mind. Not only that, he prides himself on being fashionable. He has imbibed all the deplorable habits of the English. But he has yet to acquire the aristocratic qualities they cultivate. When we see these good for nothing lordships who spent a lot to study English but does not know soil or manure, we cannot but say that those who have not fallen into this English trap are indeed fortunate. One who does not know anything at all stays that way. Though of no earthly use to the society, he is incapable of doing any harm. But that is not the case with this hardened Englishman. He thinks he is omniscient and so is scornful of all else. He thinks that what he does not know is worthless; what he does not understand is mere nonsense. If his notions are thus, need I say what the story is if by chance he lands a Government job? Like ‘a monkey who has consumed liquor’ he gets into a frenzy and becomes the lord of all he surveys. All the local acquaintances he had before becoming an English scholar and securing a high official post seem to be a thousand miles away. He and his mother are henceforth of a separate caste, all the rest untouchables. Altogether, it appears as if he is of a special class born of a professional mother31. What is the reason for this poor boy’s delusions? If he had been given proper education in his boyhood, would his eyes have been blinded so? One of my friends explained in detail how the education system works abroad. Then I realized it is no wonder that they gain such competence.
I.Amma : Appukuttan, can I ask you something? Will you tell me the truth?
P.Menon : (surprised) When have I ever lied to you, mother?
I.Amma : Are you and Parangoda Marar on bad terms?
P.Menon : I am on extremely good terms with him. Why do you have such a doubt, Mother?
I.Amma : Didn’t you talk of the ways of the nouveau Englishmen here? Then I felt that you were seeing Parangoda Marar in your mind’s eye and describing his mannerisms one by one. Oh, let us leave it. Let me hear what your friend had to say of the education system English children follow.
P.Menon : The schools abroad are not at all like ours. The principal of the school is totally responsible for the care and upbringing of his pupils. Those schools are called boarding schools or something like it. Once a child is enrolled there, the school takes up his patronage and looks after all his needs. The family sends the necessary money directly to the school authorities. Whatever facilities the children enjoy at home are provided at school too. They are not allowed the freedom to do whatsoever they please. There is a fixed time table as to what should be done at what time. Together with it, some time is also set apart for the children to play and have fun. The children are made to do various exercises so that their body is well developed and healthy. Religious lectures are delivered every day in order to instill divine faith in them. They are taught to pray before going to bed at night and on getting up in the morning. Severe punishments are meted out to those who stray away from the path of truth or put their mind to mischief. In this way they are trained from an early age to follow a regular routine for the day to day affairs so that by the time they grow up, punctuality and cleanliness become part of their nature. Even the most harebrained of the lot has some benefit as day after day he is advised and instructed on the ethical conduct he should adhere to throughout his life. We have seen how a hard rock on which an earthen pot is placed for a long period develops a depression. On Sundays even the most headstrong ones dare not miss attending the church. There, erudite vicars give lovely sermons on the modes of living that benefits the human being, extolling the virtues of faith and proffering advice on many other serious issues. Listening to this on all Sundays brings about a change of heart of the most evil bended person. There used to be a vicar in England by name Newman or some such thing. It is not long since he passed away. His sermons were able to melt even stones, according to my friend. If a boy does not acquire knowledge and mental maturity even after listening to such discourses and attending classes daily, one can only blame his fate. Boys of reasonably well to do families are sent on an extended tour to acquire worldly knowledge, accompanied by suitable female friends. Thus, by the time a boy starts life in earnest after completing this method of schooling, he turns out to be well behaved and knowledgeable, if he has the blessing of a blameless past life too. Girls are also educated equally diligently and in addition they are given practical tips on how to care for the husband after marriage and how to nurture children. An Englishman never has to bother about the domestic side once he gets married. Everything is accomplished by the wife. If he is wealthy, servants are employed and the wife supervises their work. If he is hard up, she is quite capable of managing everything herself. These are the traits that the English women acquire by the system of education they follow. I don’t see how the English language becomes special because of this. Of course, the ways of the English folk are wonderful. But I do not think them essential for our people. A lot of our men folk have now studied English. What was their intention in attempting it? To become scholars by reading great English classics or to secure a Government job? When the state of men is so pathetic, wouldn’t that of women trying to study English be far worse? After all, what has our Parangodikutty been able to learn so far? Other than learning to read out dog, cat, fox etc looking at the first standard reader and gaining a superficial knowledge of the language like our boys, she has not had the opportunity to master any of the talents that Englishwomen attain through education. She has read the newspapers in plenty and has gathered information such as who the present Prime minister is or who the prominent persons of England are. She may have studied how a steam engine is made. She might even have developed an interest in the ways of the English people by reading a lot of their books. But I do not see what use on earth these lessons are when it comes to dealing with our family matters. We take gruel and ghee for breakfast; she finds tea and bread a must. She might prefer glass vessels whereas we are used to traditional utensils. She probably thinks the day starts at ten in the morning but by our routine, household tasks such as sweeping and mopping have to be finished by the time. She might hate the very thought of handling cow dung whereas we have to use it for coating the floor. She might find it difficult to take a bath without any soap while we can only bathe with dried barks and herbs. She might desire separate apartments for sleeping, writing, reading, entertaining, dressing and so on. So we shall have to provide a number of rooms for the use of just one person. That means first we have to think of constructing more rooms. When we begin to count out one by one, we may find that many a hurdle has to be overcome. I do not think it possible for me to satisfy so many conditions to bring her here and then keep on adoring and pleasing her all the time. You must not take it that I dislike Parangodikutty and so am finding fault with her. How beautiful she was as a child! Like the proverb, ‘make up used for making one fair should not result in creating blemishes’, the craze for English has spoiled her rotten. I feel pity for her when I think of it. Let us keep aside my cause. Do you think it possible for her to find happiness with any man in marriage, mother? Since the husband of her dreams is fashioned out of all she has read in English books praising the English, she will be contented only if she finds a husband who has all the qualities of such an Englishman. She imagines all pleasures and amusements in the English style only. But we shall never allow her to leave our system and associate with the English. In case she leaves without our consent, they might not receive her into their midst either. She has made it impossible to find enjoyment in mixing with girls of the same age. Thus with her dreams and reality being two entirely different things how can she ever know real happiness? Poor thing! Such a good girl but of no use. Let it all be as her fate dictates. You do not want my life to be spoiled so, do you mother? You must tackle father as best as you can and make him understand that this alliance is not suitable. Now it is all in your hands. I shall not go beyond what both of you decide, not in this life, that is for sure.
The mother rested for a while, going over Pangassa Menon’s arguments. When she turned and looked to the west she saw that the moonlight had crept in through the bars of the window.
I.Amma : Oh, is it past midnight? I never noticed the time as I was engrossed in your discourse. My son, you will fall ill if you lose sleep like this. Go to your bed at once and have your sleep.
Heeding his mother, Pangassa Menon got up from the bay window and called to the servant to bring up a lamp. He came in and lighting the lamp, walked in front, showing Pangassa Menon the way. Pangassa Menon followed the servant and reaching his quarters, climbed on to the bed. At first, Ittichiri Amma had been of the mind to have her son wed Parangodikutty. But when she had listened to all that her son had to say, the desire was totally lost. She also entered her bedroom, shut the door and went to bed.
At the time Pangassa Menon and his mother, as stated in the previous chapter, were sitting together on the window seat adjoining the bedroom, talking, Ammalu had been standing behind the door of the bedroom. At first Ammalu thought their talk was confidential and went to bed. But then she heard the words marriage and the like and realizing it was not a discussion she couldn’t listen to, she padded over to the door and again stood behind it. She was greatly amused by all that her brother had to say of Parangodikutty. There was a particular reason for this. On the day of the previous thiruvonam32 she had gone to Parangodikutty’s house in the afternoon together with her sister Ammukkutty and one or two friends. Mookkandi Amma happened to be in the southern drawing room at that time and so they sat down with her for a while, chewing betel and cracking jokes. Mookkandi Amma then asked Ammalu to perform kaikottikkali33. All of them were in a joyful mood as it was the Onam festival. Ammalu’s dancing and singing pleased the eye and ear of every beholder. She never made unnecessary gestures that spoiled the dance or music. Her voice was as melodious as a nightingale’s. For about two hours all of them remained in the room, singing as they danced the kaikottikkali. At last when it was time to leave, they enquired after Parangodikutty. Coming to know that she was upstairs in her room, all the girls ran up together excitedly. The door to the room was half closed. No sound came from within. Asking aloud, ‘Why, is there no one inside?’, Ammalu entered the room. Parangodikutty was then reclining on a couch, reading the newspaper London Times with great interest. She was immersed in the speech Gladstone had made on the issue of the Home Rule. It was at this fascinating point that the group trooped in making a great deal of noise. Turning only her head from where she lay, she gave them a look. She was not very pleased by this intrusion. For one thing, she disliked others coming upstairs without invitation or prior intimation. For another, she could not bear to hear loud brash laughter. She found it hard to laugh even in the height of happiness. If at all she felt like laughing, she would just smile slightly and wipe her face with her handkerchief. If that did not do the trick, she would softly nip at the right side of the index finger of the right hand and sit for a while looking down. Parangodikutty has never had a laugh that was not smothered by these antics. She had shut all the doors that faced outwards so as not to be disturbed by the music and revelry that went on downstairs. Ammalu was enraged by the way Parangodikutty looked and acted. But to be polite she hid her feelings and asked amicably, ‘hey, why did we not see you downstairs? Is it that you dislike music and dancing?’ ‘Are you referring to the shouting and hooting that I heard from below? I doubted whether it could be the devil dance of the African Negroes.’ Ammalu lost patience on hearing this reply. ‘What would you say to the sort of English dance in which a man and a woman join hands and jump about to loud music?’ asked Ammalu. Parangodikutty did not realize that she was being made fun of. ‘How can you compare that to this tomfoolery?’ she replied. ‘It will look even better if the dancers wolf down some strong liquor before they start it’, retorted Ammalu. The girls went out of the room closing the door and returned downstairs. From that day Ammalu would get angry on hearing the very name Parangodikutty. Usually Ammalu was of a particular nature. She never raised her voice to anybody. Not only that, she was always courteous and very respectful in the words she used. She talked but sweetly. However, she possessed a typical character. She just could not suffer haughty people. If she felt the least doubt that she was being insulted, she was quite capable of putting them in their place. If she had been so inclined, she could easily have made nothing of Parangodikutty and blown out through the window her feeling of superiority . But she made the point with a slight retort and backed off because for one thing, it was in her nature to give respect to her father’s niece. And for another, she had come to know in confidence that her older brother intended to have alliance with Parangodikutty. She loved Pangassa Menon more than anything. She would readily give up her life – more than life it should be said – for her brother. So she was very much relieved to hear Pangassa Menon’s appraisal of Parangodikutty’s character. The next morning she got up, had her bath and breakfast and went to the neighbor’s house together with her sister, Ammukutty and related all that she had overheard. In this way this story was all over the place in two days’ time.
One day, as Parangodikutty and her mother were sitting out on the front verandah to catch the breeze, Parangodikutty’s maid joined them and began dispensing the local gossip. There then ensued such a conversation:
Maid : Have you heard the news? The day after tomorrow Pangassa Menon is getting married, it seems.
Parangodikutty : Which Pangassa Menon?
Maid : The son of the head of this family- that Pangassa Menon.
On hearing this Parangodikutty felt a great turbulence in her mind. She had been under the impression that Pangassa Menon had been captivated by her looks and was crazy about her. The maid’s words wrought a change in her, but not showing it, she enquired, “From where is he seeking alliance?”
Maid : Ammukutty Amma of Meleppoyil House.
Parangodikutty knew the said lady very well. She was very beautiful and intelligent. Though Parangodikutty held her in low esteem because she lacked English education, the local people considered her a gem of a woman.
Parangodikutty felt an irrational uneasiness upon hearing the news of Pangassa Menon seeking alliance with Ammukutty. Till that moment her impression had been quite different. Since she was as good as an English lady, all the young men of the place must be waiting for the chance to serve her. Pangassa Menon must have been so much infatuated with her that he had pleaded with his father to fix up the alliance and so Kandappa Menon had talked of the matter to her mother. Who wanted these country folk? She would go away with Parangoda Marar to Madras right in front of their faces. They would all stand staring without blinking an eye. Pangassa Menon would go crazy with unrequited love and leave stealthily for Varanasi. Others would walk over the ground she had trodden and gathering the sand she had stepped on would plaster it all over their body. Then they would chant her name and cavort madly, singing and dancing. All in all, this place would turn into an insignificant town when she left it for Madras. Because she spent day in and day out in such reveries, thinking too much of herself, she had no idea as to how other people actually thought of her. In fact, all the natives had only contempt for Parangodikutty. When talking amongst themselves they addressed her as ‘the foreign lady’. Mookkandi Amma was surprised on hearing the maid’s words.
Mookkandi Amma : Is Pangassa Menon’s alliance approved by brother Kandappan or is his personal finding? Did you hear how it came about?
Maid : We can never believe what the people say. Yesterday I went to the temple pond to take a bath. There I overheard women talking to each other and making fun. Oh, God, I dare not repeat all that!
M.Amma : Anyway let us hear it.
Maid : Is there any limit to what people can say? See, when women see another woman looking good, they are wont to malign her in any way they can. If you happen to hear what people say of Parangodikutty Amma, you feel like poking them in the face. I was enraged when I heard it all. I had my bath in silence and came away without waiting for the others..
M.Amma : You must answer to what I asked. What things did they talk about? Tell me that.
Maid : Now look here, what do they talk but impertinence? Parangodi Amma is a foreign lady, they say. An English man has been found to wed her. Pangassa Menon hates the very mention of her name. That is why it seems, he is seeking another alliance.
M.Amma : To whom did Pangassa Menon say all this? And what exactly did he say? Did you hear anything of the sort?
Maid : I have forgotten some parts. They were going on and on about it for a long time. When Pangassa Menon’s mother asked him to have alliance with Parangodikutty, he refused point blank, it seems. And then what not? He said Parangodikutty is a needle woman, she is garrulous, and a slut, not good enough to have in the family. He said a lot of bad things like this. It was when all this was related to the senior master that this alliance was agreed to. The good fortune of the lady, what else can we say? As the proverb goes, ‘woman’s luck can be picked from the street’. I have never seen this lady. But I heard the women saying she is extremely good looking.
Parangodikutty listened carefully till this point. The maid’s words were disjointed and sometimes had neither head nor tail. So she was not able to reconstruct exactly the discussion at the poolside. But she clearly understood that the people of the place held no respect for her, contrary to her imagination, and that her uncle had thought of having his son wed her only as his own wish. It was obvious that Pangassa Menon had not initiated the matter. This revelation pierced her breast like an arrow cleaving the vital points. A great sorrow mixed with envy and indignation began to fill and swell her mind. Standing up suddenly she went upstairs without a word and fell onto a couch. Till that moment she had believed that there was none other in the family as fortunate as her. Now that arrogance was completely destroyed and instead the doubt that there was none more ill-fated began to haunt her. She was also assailed by the thought that it was no use continuing living as an object of ridicule of the people. As she lay repenting like this, totally lost, her mind full of remorse and confusion, she heard her uncle, Kandappa Menon, calling her mother to the front verandah. Thinking that he must have something to say about her, she came up to the head of the stairs and stood there. After a while she saw Mookkandi Amma climbing upstairs.
Parangodikutty : What did uncle call you for?
M.Amma : Nothing in particular. Just to talk of the matter he had mentioned last time.
P.Kutty : What did he say about that?
M.Amma : I think all that the maid said might be true. Brother did not elaborate. He only said that Appukuttan’s marriage with another has been fixed up by his mother’s family.
P.Kutty : Did you say anything in reply?
M.Amma : I asked why it had been decided so and whether there was any particular reason for abandoning the alliance he had mentioned. He replied that Appukuttan did not seem very keen about it but might obey if compelled. He was afraid that would not make the alliance a happy one and so did not force the issue. He did not say anything more about it.
P.Kutty : Mother, I don’t want supper today. You go and have yours. Ask the maid to bring up just a cup of tea.
So saying Parangodikutty went into her room. Though Mookkandi Amma would have loved to know why her daughter was not eating, she knew very well that Parangodikutty did not like anyone questioning her words. So, because of fear of her daughter, she arranged to do as told without asking any questions.
As stated in the ninth chapter, our marar lawyer went to the railway station, purchased a first class ticket and got into the train. His mind burned with thoughts of how Kandappa Menon and his people might be harassing his beloved and creating all sorts of problems. After a while he began to hum a song softly, to amuse himself. He had great taste for music. He became immersed in the melody of his music and forgot time and place. The compartment he was in went straight to Bangalore and so at the station where the railway forked into two it was disconnected and linked to another one. But our lawyer was so taken up with the music that he was not aware of it. When it turned midnight he felt sleepy and went to bed. On waking up in the morning and looking out, the place appeared totally strange. The names being shouted out from some of the stations seemed unfamiliar. And he could see no familiar faces to ask and clear his doubt. Once he had passed his B.L exams he would not speak to strangers other than through a friend. So he was not able to ask anyone the name of the place and deciding to let things come as they would, he remained without loosing his confidence. At last the train stopped at a big station. He heard people shouting ‘Bangalore, Bangalore’ and realized what had happened. Being a dignified person, Parangoda Marar called the station master and without revealing the mistake he had made, paid up the excess fair due and got out. He caught a coach and prepared to go sightseeing. He saw many places in the city and ended up at the zoo. At that precise time, two lions kept in a cage fought with each other, broke the cage and jumped out. The visitors panicked and ran hither and thither. With absolutely no fear, Marar lawyer went straight to the scene, took out the revolver that was in his pocket and shot dead both the lions. Because of this, he became friends with the King of Mysore and stayed happily at the palace for two or three days before returning home. The next day evening he reached his native place. Though it was late, he went straight to Parikkampachil House without wasting a second. En route, he met the Police Inspector of the place, Chathu Nair and took him along. He reached the house of his beloved Parangodikutty at midnight. When he stepped over the threshold, he thought he saw four or five men standing close to the southern wall. On seeing the approaching group they tried to run away, but the lawyer, the inspector and the policemen ran after them and caught the rogues. Binding them with the handcuffs the policemen always carried ,they were taken to the front yard. Marar lawyer called to those inside the house. Recognizing the voice, Mookkandi Amma took up a lamp, came downstairs, opened the door and looked out. But she became frightened when she saw a crowd standing there and tried to shut the door at once. Marar understood her fear and moving forward into the light explained what had happened. Mookkandi Amma was pacified. When she came to know that the rogues did not have even a drop of water the whole day she was greatly upset. She went in and brought out a packet of biscuits and a cup of tea for each of them34. After the inspector and constables had left, Marar lawyer took his bath and food in a hurry and went upstairs. He could not get to see and talk to Parangodikutty as it was too late and so came back. He stood on the front verandah feeling dumb. A servant came out to say that a bed had been prepared for him in the guest quarters. As he was feeling greatly worried with no idea of Parangodikutty’s present situation, he had not the slightest desire to sleep. He wanted to ask the servant for news but could not bring himself to lose dignity. But the thought kept recurring when he could find no peace of mind. Finally he asked the servant whether anyone from outside was staying in the house. ‘Though you cannot call him an outsider, the master’s son Pangassa Menon has come’, replied the servant. These words began to haunt Parangoda Marar’s mind creating confusion. At once he went to the bed made up for him and began thinking as follows.
Did the servant fully grasp the meaning of the words I said or did he just give some sort of a reply? No, that could not be so. He did give a suitable answer to the question. My question was whether anyone from outside was staying in the house. He should have said, yes, Pangassa Menon is here. To add ‘though you cannot call him an outsider’ there must be a special reason. Could it be that Parangodikutty’s marriage has taken place just as I heard? But if so how can Pangassa Menon be an outsider? No.no. That cannot be so. The Englishman Main states clearly in his book that the Malayalee’s arranged alliance does not abide by the marriage rules and so is only a type of cohabitation. In that case Pangassa Menon can be considered as an outsider only. So what could the servant’s words mean? No,no. What I think is utterly wrong. Because I did not take into account one or two words, the meaning I interpreted turned out to be entirely different. In the sentence, ‘though you cannot call him an outsider’, I omitted the relevance of the word ‘though’. When I add that, it does mean that Pangassa Menon is actually an outsider. Yes, it does mean that Pangassa Menon has not yet started an alliance with Parangodikutty. It is sad that I misunderstood the whole thing and went astray in my thoughts. Is Parangodikutty as naive as ordinary girls? Where is her strength of character and sharp intelligence and where is my petty thinking? I have not forgotten how, soon after she had finished reading the English novel Tom Jones, we sat talking of this and that and she repeatedly asserted that the heroine of the book, Sophia Westeren did the right thing when she ignored her father’s rightful warnings to elope with her lover, a poor man, leaving behind her native place, her home, her wealth and all else. So she would never be persuaded by Kandappa Menon and if at all things became difficult she would only run off to where I am.
Let me recall once more what exactly the servant said. ‘Though you cannot call him an outsider Pangassa Menon has come’. Though no outsider, Pangassa Menon. Yes, it is not as I interpreted. The servant is not certain whether Pangassa Menon is an outsider. That is why he did not put it clearly as there is an outsider, Pangassa Menon. But again, is it clear that Pangassa Menon is an outsider? The word though indicates doubt on that score. The whole sentence is ambiguous. Okay, okay, now I get it. There has been two different stands once the Malayalee Marriage Bill35 was published. Because some people argued that the Nairs do have a legal marriage and others opposed it, a Commission took some statements and went away. But nothing has been resolved so far. If it becomes certain that the marriage system has legal validity, Pangassa Menon cannot be called an outsider. But if not, he can only be an outsider till the marriage becomes a lawful ceremony. It is better to leave it in doubt till something or other is finalized. It is all because that respected Sankaran Nair created this mess that the servant became confused and put the matter so ambiguously. Yes, now it is clear. The marriage has indeed taken place. I travelled so far with no point. But will Parangodikutty do such a thing? After all she did write that if I came down as soon as I received her letter she would elope with me to Madras. So it is too bad that she has thus changed her mind. I know how to retaliate. The promise she gave me is a completed agreement. I have kept the letter safe. I am sure I can win the case if I go to court with it and file a petition for loss incurred. I can submit the argument that I have been greatly insulted when discarded with no respect at all for the sake of a mere native who does not even know the English alphabet. Oh, My God! What atrocious thoughts I am harboring! Parangodikutty, my love, I am being totally unjust to you. How virtuous you are, how very cruel I am! You must forgive my evil thoughts. Or else my heart will bleed. You are not in the wrong even if you have accepted Pangassa Menon. What can you do if elders and relatives surround you and force you to obey? Could anybody have dreamt that Henrietta Temple36 would ever succumb to marriage to the Duke after all the promises she gave Ferdinand Armen and the way things had been between them? How can I be sure that they have not been telling you tales about me too and turning your mind against me? Anyway it cannot be that you are guilty.
Thus our Parangoda Marar spent a sleepless night going over the servant’s reply, splitting it up into sentence, word and letter and finding different interpretations each time. Thereafter he called to mind all the stories he had read in English, comparing the situation of the lovers therein with his own, elated when the outcome for him was positive and despairing when it seemed contradictory. At times he kept muttering in English and Malayalam like a mad man and somehow or other the whole night was passed.
Early next morning he got up and looked out through the window on the eastern side of his bedroom. He caught sight of Pangassa Menon standing on the western verandah of the building opposite, talking to someone. At once he climbed down and looked around. Making sure that all the doors of the apartments used by Parangodikutty remained closed, he became convinced that all his worries of the previous night were baseless. He went back to his quarters, lay down on an armchair in the outer room and went to sleep easily.
The day dawned well. Kandappa Menon rose and did his morning rituals. Then he came and sat down in the front room. Pangassa Menon informed him that two scholars had arrived from afar to see him. Kandappa Menon received them and seated them in a respectful manner. Thereupon ensued a lively debate on literature. When they were enjoying so, our Marar lawyer woke up and came downstairs. He saw Kandappa Menon and others gathered on the front verandah and came up. Kandappa Menon stood up and courteously seated him in the adjacent chair. There followed an exchange of pleasantries.
Kandappa Menon : Were you very late when you arrived yesterday night? It was only when I came out in the morning that I heard all that had happened. Thank God you came in the nick of time. Otherwise the thieves might have been up to anything. (Looking at Pangassa Menon) Is it not so, Appukuttan?
Pangassa Menon : This proves that the actions of our kinfolk turn out to be beneficial even when done with no such purpose. Parangoda Marar never visits us nowadays. Nor did we have prior information of this visit. he had no inkling that a great mishap was about to befall us. But when we think of the way things turned out, it is as if he came prepared with the foresight that this would happen.
Parangoda Marar : Pangassa Menon talks so well. It is too bad that you did not study English. If you had mastered a little logic and read Huxley, Tindall, Spencer and others, how great a master you would have become!
Pangassa Menon (laughing) : What is the use of longing for it now, it has all to be gained by good deeds of previous birth.
Parangoda Marar : Previous birth? That is an absurd concept. You have studied Sanskrit and imbibed a lot of nonsense from its trash books. This is the blunder generally committed by our people. They think Sanskrit is the greatest thing. But when we look into it we see only inanity after inanity. Look at this for instance. In certain Vedas it is written that Brahmins who consume fish and meat become outcastes. But in the same text elsewhere is the line, ‘Brahmins can also eat prawns made into a hot and sour paste with small onions, green chillies, tamarind and salt to taste’. What utter nonsense this is!
Pangassa Menon (with a laugh) : This is not mere nonsense, it is really fatuous.
By this time, Kandappa Menon started to butt in and talk of other things. He, as well as Pangassa Menon, knew very well the nature of Marar’s talk. He did not want it to be evident to those present from outside.
Kandappa Menon : (indicating the scholars) I don’t think Marar lawyer is acquainted with these gentlemen. They are reputed scholars. This one (pointing out one of them) has an added talent, a highly developed flair for poetry. His skill in regional language poetry is exceptional. I must say I have not seen such maturity and melody elsewhere.
Pangassa Menon was overcome by a desire to tease Marar lawyer. Though he gathered from his father’s expression that he did not endorse it, Pangassa Menon felt he had to hit back for the contemptuous remark he had received.
Pangassa Menon : (looking at the scholars) It is not proper to flatter Marar lawyer in his presence, but I cannot but say the truth. He is indeed a superhuman. His qualifications and position are proof positive that he is extremely adept at the English language. Not only that, he has a far greater grasp of Sanskrit than many who have struggled for years to master the language. And that too, without bothering to go deeply into it. As for the finesse of his literary appreciation, it surpasses all else. And to crown it all, he also has a flair for poetry. How very fortunate one has to be, to have all these together!
Marar lawyer rose two feet, lapping up this false eulogy. He had adopted a proud posture even before, now he sat all the more stiffly.
Parangoda Marar : (with a slight smile) Pangassa Menon is flattering me excessively.
Pangassa Menon : It is only natural that you feel so. But we cannot help stating the facts.
Marar lawyer, convinced that Pangassa Menon spoke but the truth, acquiesced with an appreciative look and sat silent for a while. Then, he took up a fan that lay beside him on the step and looking toward the poet scholar, said,
Parangoda Marar : I understand from Kandappa Menon’s introduction that you are a language poet of note. But my impression is that poets who write in the regional language cannot compose original verse extempore without the repeated use of such words as lotus, moon, cloud, bird, bee, woman etc. Can you compose a few lines on this hand held fan in a matter of minutes?
Pangassa Menon : (stopping the poet with a meaningful look) – What you say is a fact. All these poets imitate the poetry they have studied and cook up something or other, that is all. They lack the ability to create using their brain. I do not think it will ever be possible without studying English.
Parangoda Marar : I think Pangassa Menon talks very reasonably. I have composed a verse in this short time. Kindly listen to it.
This strange thing called a fan
Has a very fancy look
Come summer all our men
Carry this about, do you not see?
Even Kandappa Menon who had been trying so far to conceal the extent of Parangoda Marar’s frivolity, could not help laughing aloud at this piece of absurd poem. Can you then imagine the response of the rest? But our lawyer never dreamt that all this uproar was the outcome of his ridiculous rhyme. The wise guy took it to be in appreciation of his wonderful composition. Kandappa Menon realized that if Marar lawyer were to continue in this vein things would get out of hand, and said,
Kandappa Menon : It is past eight already. Are you not having a bath, Marar? If the likes of you were to join us simple natives, it will be awkward. We are not always punctual about eating and things. But you people used to the city life must be very strict about these matters.
Parangoda Marar : What you say is correct. Though the people here have not read books on hygiene, they seemed to have grasped the principles. This is really astonishing.
So saying Marar lawyer went off to take a bath. Though he had spoken in Malayalam more than half the words were English and so the others had not followed the conversation in full. But from the context and expressions they had understood the basic idea.
Kandappa Menon : (looking at Pangassa Menon) I have perceived earlier that this man is more than a simpleton. But I never knew that it went so far.
Pangassa Menon : Father, there is a saying that great scholars call fools simpletons. You also use the word in that sense, don’t you?
K.Menon : This man claims he has passed the B.A. examination. I am surprised when I think of it.
P. Menon : If this surprises you, what will you say when you see even more masterful degree holders?
Saying just this, both of them retired to their rooms upstairs. Our Marar had his bath and breakfast and went to Parangodikutty’s apartments without wasting a minute. In the conversation that followed, it became clear that Pangassa Menon had never desired an alliance with Parangodikutty and was now committed elsewhere. Parangoda Marar felt as relieved as if a load had been lifted from his mind when he heard the comforting news that he had no competitor whatsoever. He spent the day happily. Parangoda Marar’s attitudes to life kept on changing and so the next morning he was of a different mind. The realization that he had no foe reduced his stubbornness. Among the English, there is a system called courting whereby even after a marriage is agreed to, there is a waiting period. Our lawyer was crazy about the English customs. Now that the doubts concerning Pangassa Menon had been cleared, he decided that a courting period was indispensable. Not only that, he had previously held the belief that the Malayalee system of marriage was as legal as other marriage systems. He had even written a few books to highlight this aspect. But later to please a friend he had changed his opinion and stated that the Malayalee marriage was but a type of concubinage. It cannot be said now as to what his next thought shall be. Anyway for the time being he decided to have a phase of courting and saying so to Parangodikutty left for Madras the next day. Though Parangodikutty had mentally accepted him as her bridegroom much earlier, she still spends her time reading the London Times and news such as the Home Rule. Nobody can predict what Parangoda Marar has decided to do in future as no one has fully understood his nature as yet. Pangassa Menon took his wife to his family home and on the insistence of Ammalu and Ammukutty decided to make his home there itself. By the couple’s good fortune they were blessed with two children as brilliant as Rahu and Kethu37 who grace the household. Suitable matches were found for both Ammalu and Ammukutty and they also lived happily38.
Before ending this book I have but one thing to tell my dear readers. I do not hold the view that if our women were to study English they may turn arrogant like Parangodikutty or that our young men will cut ridiculous figures like Parangoda Marar. But our womenfolk are not going to succeed in life just by learning English. Likewise, we lose no face if we are ignorant of English. One’s dignity and status depends entirely on one’s way of life and behavior. Similarly, there is no need for men to act superior just because they have had English education and a B.A.B.L degree. There are people who have no notion of English but are extremely polite, worldly and appreciative while some who have passed exams remain foolish and arrogant. A man’s qualification does not depend on the exams he has passed; it is to be adjudged by his good deeds. So all I say is that you should not make mistakes under the illusion that a wife who has no grasp of English is not good enough or that a husband is suitable just because he has passed high exams and end up like the hero and heroine in this book .
|Family status, age, appearance, wealth,
Knowledge, behavior, bodily health,
All these qualities in man and woman
Should be present in harmonious vein
Those that differ in such matters
Suffer much in married state
They lose not just wealth and name
But happiness and peace of mind too.
Translated from Malayalam by Sulochana Ram Mohan
Notes on Titles
1. Parangodi Parinayam : The marriage of Parangodi. The archaic name of the girl is also a satire on such sophisticated names as Kundalata, Indulekha, Indumati etc chosen by the writers of the time for their romantic novels. In the preface to this novel, the author explains his choice of such names as Parangodi and Parangodan in an extremely droll fashion. Imitating the author of Meenakshy who also gave an explanation for that native name, he asserts that the Nairs of Kerala are the original inhabitants of the place whereas the Aryans are invaders from the North. He jests that people who decide that the offspring of an Arya-Nair union is of better genetic constitution also deem the mule, a cross of horse and donkey, to be so. But he is insistent that the genetic qualities of the Nairs have to be preserved without any dilution and so in order to substantiate this theory he has given his characters names that were prevalent in Kerala before any outsiders came here. Parangodi and Parangodan are pure Malayalam names unadulterated by the Aryan influence and the author avers that the very names proclaim their blue blood and give the reader a preconception of their breeding and character.
2. A conversation or the eighteenth chapter : The longest chapter in this novel, the whole of this is used to mock the eighteenth chapter of Indulekha which was highly acclaimed at the time as discussing modern ideas and refuting obsolete customs. In this, the author takes the opposite stand and makes fun of people who think English education a mark of superiority. He also creates situations similar to those in Indulekha to bring out their ridiculousness. For example, the hero, Parangoda Marar goes to the zoo in Bangalore and shoots down two lions on the spot. This is a mock scene of Madhavan, the hero of Indulekha shooting down a lion that escaped from the Madras zoo. In fact, the whole narration of Parangoda Marar accidentally ending up in Bangalore is a burlesque. In Indulekha the hero and heroine pledge themselves to each other when they are old enough to do so but here they did it in childhood itself, it seems! Madhavan’s hair, when let down from the ‘kuduma’, reaches down to his knees, but Parangoda Marar’s hair surpasses this length to sweep the ground! Madhavan also expresses doubts on the chastity of Malayalee women as the marriage system called ‘sambandam’ has no airtight clauses for having only one husband. Parangoda Marar’s apprehensions of the same are laughable, especially when he attributes the same to a mere servant. The conclusion is that the author was provoked by the renaissance trends that evolved with the publication of Indulekha along with the importance English education was gaining.
Notes on Preface
1. the first novel in the Malayalam language
2. Kundalata was followed by the novels Indulekha and Meenakshy. Panchu Menon and Soori Nambootiripatu are characters in the novel Indulekha.
3. A prominent literary magazine of the period.
4. Adiseshan is a thousand tongued snake upon whom Lord Vishnu reclines in the ocean of milk.
5. The author of the article on the novel which inspired Ramankutty Menon to write this book.
6. The author of meenakshy has given an explanation for its title in the preface to the novel. This is to make fun of it.
7. Sree Parasuraman is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is said to have created the land of Kerala from Sea.
8. Kamadhenu is the name of a celestial cow that grants every wish asked of it.
9. A play written by a woman, Thottakkattu Ikkavamma. It was a novelty in those days.
10. Kerala was called Penn Malayalam in those days because women had a high position in the matrilineal family system.
11. The word Saraswathy in the title of the book Saraswathy Vijayam refers to the goddess Saraswathy, the deity of learning. So saraswathy vijayam represents the victory of learning and not the success story of the woman named Saraswathy as many took it for.
Notes on Text
1. Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vysyas and Sudras are the four main castes according to the caste system prevalent in those times.
2. The first part of a complex sentence, this can be read as an extended metaphor for an ancient ceremony, a yaga, usually conducted by kings to annex enemy states to one’s own territory. The imagery of the Goddess blowing air over fire in devotional pose, creating an illusion of smoke resembles such a ‘yaga’.
3. The second part of the sentence uses the concept that fame is always spotlessly white and so when the Goddess noticed that king Rajatheswara’s reputation spread far and wide, the world itself turned pure white. Lord Vishnu lies in an ocean of milk, Lord Siva lives on the snowy peaks of the mountain, Kailasa, Indra, the lord of heavens possesses a rare elephant Iravata which is white in color, Rahu is a planet that is imagined as obstructing the moon causing lunar eclipse and Lord Brahma owns a white swan. All these, the ocean, the Kailasa, the Iravata, the moon and the swan, which are white in color, become invisible when the whole world is white and so the owners have to hunt for them.
4. kazhakakkaran is one who works in the temple premises to clean vessels used for rituals and things like that.
5&6. The four main castes of the Hindus are divided again into a number of sub castes. The Varyar is one such, the Varasyar is the feminine gender, the Variam is the house of the Varyar.
7. Nambootiri is another sub caste. The nambootiris have the privilege of working in the inner sanctum of the temple, doing the daily rituals for the idol and so are considered a superior caste.
8. Marar is a sub caste. They are ones who play the drum in the temple. Whenever the nambootiri goes inside the inner sanctum to perform the holy rites and closes the door on the waiting devotees, the marar is supposed to stand outside and beat his drum as part of the ritual. Once when the marar neglected this duty, the nambootiri had complained to the king and received implicit orders that the marar was to beat his drum ‘whenever the nambootiri went inside and shut the door’. Because it was not specified ‘inside the inner sanctum of the temple’, the marar used the fact to retaliate, by making public the nambootiri’s illegitimate relationship.
9. Pazhani Velayudha Swami is yet another Hindu God. The famous idol of this God in the temple at Pazhani was the one invoked by Mookandi Amma for blessing her with child. The multitude of devotees flocking there are called ‘pandarams’ and a feast for them is one of the offerings commonly proffered there.
10. A quotation from a well known Malayalam text.
11. Kodungallur Bharani is the celebrated annual festival of the temple for Goddess Kali at a place called Kodungallur. Singing obscene litanies and sacrificing cocks to please this savage deity is an exuberant part of the festivities here.
12. This is a quotation from the novel Meenakshy, where there is a scene describing a nambootiri youth standing at the bathing ghat and ogling the bathing women.
13. The Goddess Saraswathy is the deity of learning. So, being born in that auspicious time early in the morning called ‘saraswathy yamam’ seems to foretell the child’s growth into a scholar.
14. Again this is to make fun of the author of Meenakshy.
15&16 Both ‘drying the gun’ and ‘breaking the thread of interest’ are usages that were in vogue at the time in Northern Kerala. It was said that a man called Kurukkattu Kurup literally put out his hunting guns to dry in the sun, as supreme example of his idiocy. The story goes that his assistant took away some of the guns and when asked about the decreased number, replied that just as grains of pepper lose in number when they get dried, guns also did. Kurup was too much of a fool to question this. Similarly ‘breaking the thread of interest’ illustrates the imbecility of the nambootiris. Since the nambootiri was not well versed in the appreciation of ‘Kathakali’, the traditional dance form of Kerala, he asked another to pull the thread tied to his foot whenever it was proper to laugh aloud expressing appreciation. But the thread broke off unexpectedly. And the nambootiri being too foolish even to conceal his ignorance, called out for the performance to be stopped as he could not now know when to laugh. Here, a rope is tied to the ear and ‘Kathakali’ is changed to a music recital to emphasize the intended satire.
17. Having alliance with is a phrase oft repeated in the novel. This refers to the marriage system that was prevalent among the high caste Hindus of the period and was called ‘sambandam’. Both the husband and wife continue to stay on in their family homesteads even after marriage. The man goes to the wife’s place to spend the nights and is not responsible for her finances and expenses of day to day living. In the matrilineal family system the woman has her share of the family property and when she bears children they too become heir to it. A lot of controversies about the legalities of such a relationship took place about the time this novel was written and the author has included parts of it in a later chapter.
18. The position of the seniormost administrator of state was given the name Divanji and next to him in rank is Divan peshkar. When the author remarks that some of the members of the eminent family were Divanjis and others ‘divan bhoshkars’, a comic twist of the ‘divan peshkars’, he seems to be making fun of those who were but pretentious ones. The tone of the whole passage, in tune with the general satire intended, can be read as a mock description of family eminence.
19. para is a measuring vessal. The extent of land is here arrived at by calculating the area needed for sowing one para of paddy. For one para of paddy the area required for sowing is fourteen cents of land.
20. mozhapattu is a yard of silk. Here it seems to be a mark of disdain.
21. making fun of the heroines in the novels Indulekha and Meenakshy who find pleasure in making caps for their lovers.
22. Again, a satire on Indulekha. The heroine in it pledges herself to Madhavan without others getting to know of it. Here, Parangodan and Parangodi pledge themselves to each other in childhood itself when they do not even know what marriage is!
23. Refers to the novel Meenakshy.
24. In the novel Indulekha, the heroine marries her lover Madhavan in secret without the consent of her uncle Panchu Menon who is the head of the family. But Panchu Menon loves her dearly and so forgives all and everything ends happily.
25. Again, reference to Meenakshy. A comic version of the agonies Meenakshy’s lover was described as suffering on hearing that she was to be wed to another.
26. It is an old poetic concept that the lotus is the sweetheart of the Sun God while the water lily is that of the Moon God. This is offered as symbolic explanation for the lotus blooming on sunrise and the water lily drooping at the same time.
27. According to Hindu mythology, Sati is the first wife of Lord Siva. Her father tried to separate her from her husband whom she loved more than life itself. She killed herself in the end.
28. Ganapathy Homam is a rite conducted to augur an auspicious beginning for important matters such as housewarming. Lord Ganapathy is the deity who removes obstacles and assures completion of projects undertaken.
29. pavithramothiram is a ring made of ‘kusa grass’ or ‘dharbha’, to be used in holy sacrifice and religious rituals. Here it refers to a gold ring made in the same fashion.
30. muhurta is the time of the day when marriage can be conducted to have auspicious results, according to astrological chart.
31. professional mother is a coinage of the author to mock the boy, who after being educated in English and securing a Government job, feels he is a unique creature born of a mother specially created to give birth to professionals.
32 . Onam is the universal festival of the typical Malayalee. The celebrations begin ten days before the most important day which falls on the star ‘thiruvonam’.
33. kaikottikkali is a typical dance form of the Malayalee women. It is usually performed in connection with the Onam festival and some other festivals like the ‘thiruvathira’ when it is also called ‘thiruvathirakkali’.
34. Satire on Meenakshy wherein in the eighteenth chapter there is a similar situation. The whole episode is a farce, with the thieves waiting expectantly to be caught and the housewife taking pity on their hunger and serving them tea and biscuits.
35. C.Sankaran Nair had presented a Bill stating the need for revising in toto the marriage system of the nairs. As the ‘sambandam’ had no legal validity, many social activists of the time had begun to question its social significance.
36. The heroine of the novel Henrietta Temple by Benjamin Disraeli (Bacon Suffield)
37. According to Hindu mythology, Rahu was an Asura. Asuras were once Devas, punished by God for doing bad things. One day, Rahu joined the Devas to drink ambrosia, which only the Devas are allowed to drink as it provides immortality. The Sun and the Moon reported this to Lord Vishnu who cut off Rahu’s head as punishment. But because of the ambrosia he had consumed, both pieces of Rahu’s body rejoined, the top being Rahu and the bottom Kethu and it is said that both of them were immortal.
38. The conclusion is that Parangodikutty with her English concept of life is the only one to miss out on conjugal pleasures and left to lead an empty life.
Parangodi Parinayam published in 1892 is a novel conceived by the author, Kizhakkeppattu Ramankutty Menon as a burlesque on the early novels in the Malayalam language. It has acquired a place in the history of Malayalam literature as the first satirical novel in the language.
Though Kundalata written by Appu Nedungadi is regarded as the first Malayalam novel, Indulekha by O. Chandu Menon, published in 1889 was the first novel to win wide acclaim as having all the features of this new genre. Indulekha written in simple Malayalam, freed as far as was possible from Sanskrit, became immediately popular, perhaps the first best seller in the language. The ready success and acceptance of Indulekha naturally led to the birth of a number of similar literary attempts. Many a reader with literary bend presumed it easy to pen a novel having two lovers in the like of Madhavan and Indulekha, combining the story of their romance with contemporary social problems. Thus a host of books came to be published after Indulekha. Indumathy Swayamvaram(1890), Meenakshy (1890), Lakshmi Kesavam (1892 and Saraswathy Vijayam (1892) are some of them. But none of these could be said to have approximated the aesthetic values of Indulekha.
In a prominent literary magazine of the period, Vidyavinodini, a critique of this craze of writing novels was published. It was maintain that when Chandu Menon’s Indulekha was published, many a reader bought and read it and having enjoyed it tremendously, showered praise over the writer. This provoked the thought that such fame could be attained easily. A romance between man and woman, a few obstacles in the path of their true love, a lot of debates and discussions thrown in –this seemed a sure fire formula for a successful novel. Many were induced to write and publish books in this vein, but sadly enough they won but a few readers and absolutely no name or fame.
This note emphasise underlines the literary phenomenon of a new genre of literature gaining immediate recognition in an alien language but all imitations emulations of the same facing rejection and ridicule. Both Indumathy Swayamvaram and Meenakshy bear obvious resemblance to Indulekha. Saraswathy Vijayam and Sukumari are not so clearly indebted to Indulekha, but this has not helped them to achieve originality of vision. It is in this context that Parangodi Parinayam came to be written and it acquired a historical significance by being able to put a stop to further literary productions in the name of the novel. The study of this satirical novel is pertinent as this becomes an indispensable part of the endeavors made for discovering how the novel, an alien genre, found roots in the realm of Malayalam literature and developed into one of the most popular and influential forms of literary expression.
The immediate provocation to Kizhakkeppattu Ramanjutty Menon to start writing Parangodi Parinayam was an article published in the magazine Vidyavinodini on the genre of the novel. Vengayil Kunjiraman Nayanar, a prominent writer of the times, had written it. It was a highly exaggerated piece on the way novels were being published one after the other in an continuous flow. He mocked this process with the statement that it was child’s play to write in this way; one had only to make up chapters with captions such as Chapter One, ‘Going to the pond and Catching sight of a watersnake’; Chapter Two, ‘A Surprise’; Chapter Three, ‘The foolishness of the Nambootiri and the matter of making Changan beat the drum’; Chapter four, ‘A feast for devotees’; Chapter five, ‘On the daughter attaining puberty and the nephew becoming a lawyer’; Chapter Six, ‘Kodungallur Bharani’; Chapter Seven, ‘How the gun was dried in the sun and the rope of fun broken’; Chapter Eight, ‘Parangodi’s Distress and Pangan’s Discomfiture’; Chapter Nine, ‘How Pangan turned into Parangodan’ and so on as one felt necessary. He added that the book could very well be entitled ‘Parangodi Parinayam’ and the job would be easily done. He laughed that it was a pity nobody had yet this formulated this feasible method thus.
Ramankutty Menon was captivated by this humorous summing up and used his own sense of humor to elaborate on this and write a satire. He used the very names suggested by Vengayil for the first eight chapters, matching content to title, instead of the proper way of finding titles for chapters after writing them. The only changes he made were ‘Beating the drum’ for the third chapter and ‘Parangodi’s distress and Parangodan’s discomfiture’ for the eighth one. The ninth chapter he wrote was ‘A Journey’ and he also added three more. When the titles cooked up by Vengayil are examined, one finds that they are not really connected in any way. In the novel Meenakshy also the chapters bear disconnected titles and so Vengayil must have been ridiculing such a trend. By doing the same Ramankutty Menon added to the irony. The archaic names Parangodi, Pangassa Menon, are also borrowed from this book and are intended to give the reader a preconceived notion of the intended satire; but the author in his preface to the book gives certain other reasons for using such names. However, the article in Vidyavinodini was in praise of Indulekha and mocked the other novels because they could not reach the standard of literary sensibility set by Chandu Menon. However, Kizhakkeppattu Ramankutty Menon, while pretending to follow the same path, wanted to make an other point. His intention was to record his objections to the sentiments propounded by Indulekha winning popular acceptance all around.
According to many a literary historian, Parangodi Parinayam was written with the intention of putting a damper on the inception of such worthless novels as the imitations of Indulekha turned out to be and that the author aims his satire only on Meenakshy and others that followed Indulekha. But on research it is found that Ramankutty Menon’s main target was infact the novel Indulekha. The very approach of Parangodi Parinayam is contradictory to the progressive stand projected in Indulekha. An entire chapter in Parangodi Parinayam has been devoted to question the over importance given to English education at the cost of cultivating contempt for the mother tongue.
The tenth chapter of Parangodi Parinayam is titled ‘A Conversation or The Eighteenth Chapter’. This is a direct satire of the eighteenth chapter in Indulekha which won high acclaim at the time for the serious, philosophical discussions it contains. This is the longest chapter in Parangodi Parinayam and is used entirely to oppose the arguments forwarded by Chandu Menon. In Indulekha, the hero Madhavan and the heroine Indulekha have benefited from their English education. They developed into intelligent, dignified individuals with their own opinions and characteristics. But the protagonists of Parangodi Parinayam are pictured as becoming completely spoilt by this association with the English language, their unwanted sense of superiority having destroyed their originality and ethnic identity. Parangodi and Parangodan are but weak willed caricatures who lose out on life itself in the end. Similarly, the other characters are also portrayed in direct contrast to those in Indulekha. Those who have not had the fortune to study English are considered as inferiors in Indulekha, but in Parangodi Parinayam they are firmly rooted in their own soil and flourish naturally. So it can be assumed that Ramankutty Menon had a much deeper and stronger motive for attempting such a satire than his personal dissent to the modern ideas Chandu Menon sought to foreground. He must have been perturbed by the changes taking place in the social and cultural circles of Kerala as a result of the spread of English education and inculcation of western ways of living.
It is true that with the publication of Indulekha people became aware of alien cultures and life styles and that this, along with the political undercurrents of the times, created social upheavals. Whereas Sanskrit had been the highly acclaimed medium of literary aspirations till then, novels in Malayalam brought in a different trend in language. As the author of Indulekha entered the scene as a crusader of English education and as a harbinger of new concepts such as individual thought and independence for women, the novel as a genre caught popular attention as a serious mode of discussion. The progressive movement spurred by such ideas met with extreme disapproval by the traditionalists. They believed all this to be unnatural and dangerous changes conceived by the new generation of youngsters educated in English. They were frustrated by this attack on their traditions and hereditary beliefs; all the more because they had no means to hand for combating the swift propagation of these newfangled notions. The publication of Meenakshy, which was a clear imitation of Indulekha opened up a path for expressing this resentment. Ramankutty Menon who was a traditionalist at heart seized this opportunity to attack Indulekha pretending to aim his criticism at Meenakshy. Vengayil’s article in Vidyavinodini was an added incentive that spurred him on in this direction. All this has to be read as the natural reactions to the infiltration of a new culture into the prevalent social structure, becoming integral parts of the social renovation happening in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Though Parangodi Parinayam did not succeed in its purpose of putting on hold the progressive tendencies that continued to thrive as the natural outcome of the changing times, it did acquire a place of pride in the history of Malayalam novel, reflecting as it did the turbulence of thought in matters of education and use of language. This work also has its representation in the area of criticism because it made use of the burlesque to censure the tasteless emulations of Indulekha. Naturally enough the publication of Parangodi Parinayam paved the way for further discussions and deliberations on the practical aspects of writing good novels. Moreover, the language of the novel was a colorful mosaic, rich in humor and interspersed with high sounding Sanskrit words that bore no particular relevance to the basic theme, obsolete metaphors, the typical euphemisms of classical works, witty quotations and proverbs concocted by Ramankutty Menon in the spirit of retaliation. The translator cannot in all honesty claim that all the ethnic and periodic connotations of the original has been reproduced faithfully in this, the very language that the writer set out to make fun of.
In the preface to the text, Ramankutty Menon proffers certain explanations to his readers. This is a fine example of his sarcasm that is amusing, natural and at the same time aimed precisely. His reasons for writing such a novel, his ambition to be known as ‘the first Malayalam novelist of all times’, why he chose native names for the book and its characters, his request to his readers etc are given in an extremely hilarious manner that makes for spicy entertainment. All in all, Parangodi Parinayam recreates a culturally rich and original past and gives us a good picture of a witty and intelligent writer of the times. We can be proud to exhibit it as part of our literal heritage.
SULOCHANA RAMMOHAN. Accomplished poet, translator and critic. Her critical studies of the stories of Chandramathi and Ashitha have won her great acclaim.