Does an experience occur after one reads about another of a similar nature in a story or does a story take birth in the wake of experiences? Whatever be Radhamony’s experience, Murukesan affirms that he raped Radhamony, not on account of reading the story. The rape is his own creation. Original. No storywriter can influence that. Gopinathan Nair, Radhamoni’s husband too has no faith in the story. Gopinathan Nair believes that the rape was brought about because Radhamony had forgotten to lock the door after he left. An open door is an invitation. That is why Murukesan, from the workshop downstairs, with a spanner in his hand and dress besmeared with oil and soot, trespassed into the room.
It was neither her defeat at court nor the lawyer Somasundaram who verbally raped her before the court, reviewing the issue, in a manner similar to ‘examining a blue film scene by scene’ that has pained Radhamony. It was not the judge who set Murukesan free; underlining the statement that Radhamony’s body had cruelly cheated her mind. The knotty traps in the story which Radhamony had finished reading just before Murukesan violated her, pains her severely.
If Radhamony were to recount her own story, questions regarding her sexuality would surely figure in it. Since she is no creative writer, the story would be told along a straight line without twists and turns, metaphoric usages or philosophic questions.
The listeners might feel uncomfortable if Radhamony stated bluntly that it was when she was nine years old that kunnikkuru sized breasts sprouted on her body. Some may opine that even if the reference is to Radhamony’s own body, it is better stated in a cloaked vein. Whatever it may be, Radhamony will state that she had curiously run her fingers over her blouse and derived pleasure. On the day she spotted the soft down spreading beneath her abdomen, she held her breath out of sheer joy. The knowledge that she too was blooming into a fully grown nakedness like that of Anandiyedatti, which she had secretly spied at the bathing ghat, caused that breathlessness.
Half way through her ninth year, she woke up one day rudely from the depths of a child’s carefree sleep. Rough fingers were clutching at her breasts, little more grown than a kunnikkuru — causing her pain. Radhamony thought that it was the magician in the story she was reading before going to sleep. She jumped up with a shriek. Did the magician scoot when her mother lit the lamp? Radhamony sat there staring in bewilderment at Unni uncle who was lying on his side snoring away and her younger sister who started crying on being awakened by the lamplight that fell on her face. Such a heavy melancholy filled her that she was unable to explain the occurrence to mother. Thereafter Radhamony had never felt like running her fingers over her blouse. Neither did she feel like bending low and looking intently at her abdomen. Radhamony says that her nipples had sunk in the melancholy.
In this manner when Radhamony reads at random from the unthreaded pages of her book of experiences without any loathing, we meet some people who had made this melancholy swell like cancer.
One: her aunt’s husband Kuttikrishnan Nair who with a wide smile, had come and sat beside her on her mat on one of the days of menstruation and pressed his trembling hands against her blouse.
Two: the Maths teacher, who while giving special classes to Radhamony who was weak in the subject, had held her against the black background of the blackboard, close to the throbbing of his body.
Three : Her uncle’s daughter Saradedathi, who used to come to her on lonely afternoons and hugged, smelled, kissed and tickled Radhamony in a strange manner.
There is no point in describing everything like this. Whether melancholy was an immovable mountain or a huge clock, it descended on Radhamony’s head. Radhamony started to dread this body that encircled her when realization dawned on her that the body was a wayside resting place frequented opportunely by men and brutes alike, and that the privacy of the body was just a convenient lie. Unable to hate or love it, she was confused, perplexed.
When matters were at this juncture, during the rape – if one were to say, however philosophically, that Radhamony was ‘unable to decide at the final moments of the incident whether she was being violated or partaking in a pleasurable experience, not entirely one sided’ what are we to understand?
When the rapist Murukesan himself cannot authoritatively express Radhamony’s experience, how can a third person even state an opinion about that? Murukesan had been trespassing into the silence of Gopinathan Nair’s bedroom. All trespasses are transgressions. Murukesan broke into the secret of Radhamony’s body.
What is it that makes one pursue Radhamony instead of Murukesan?
Whatever that may be, certain questions regarding Radhamony still remain. Does Radhamony have the right to decide whom to share her body’s secret with? If she had, would she have had to share it with Gopinathan Nair? Would Murukesan then have made a forced entry into the secret of her body? Would Kuttikrishnan Nair, the Maths teacher and Saradedatti have made their share of assault? Would melancholy have built its nest upon her little nipples at the tender age of nine itself? Does a doctor, lawyer or storywriter possess the authority to state that Radhamony’s melancholy, being part of her conditioning, is fraudulent, idiosyncratic and that even at a random sampling, will lose its pertinence?
Radhamony at the court. Radhamony in the defense stand.
Lawyer Somasundaram has come neatly dressed. Nowadays films are becoming a great inspiration for lawyers. Somasundaram has been influenced by the acting style of Amrish Puri.
Amrish Puri asks,
When the incident occurred, where was Murukesan, above or below?
You didn’t resist. Did you, Radhamony?
Yes, I did.
Where were your hands during the incident?
Where were they? Radhamoni remembers the legs more vividly than the hands. The legs had been two apt weapons to kick at Murukesan till the time he conquered her totally. But in the case of rape, hands are much more relevant, as is suggested by Amrish Puri’s frowning, knitted eyebrows.
Say, where? On Murukesan’s back, neck?
Radhamoni is not ignorant of the significance of hands at the time of sexual union. The foundation of her marriage to Gopinathan Nair with whom, as others advised, she was obliged to indulge in sex, was being shaken by the fact that her hands could never lift themselves to him. When she lay with her hands closer to her body and sunk in an even darker melancholy, Gopinathan Nair would complain — you are not co-operating with me. You are legally obliged to co-operate with me.
My mind does not flow into my body.
Radhamony’s mind had spread through her entire body and she had burned like a furnace and been at the point of overflowing only by Anand’s side. Radhamony is ignorant of that chemistry. Gopinathan Nair, Murukesan and Anand are all bodies. As different from other bodies, how could Radhamony make out Anand’s mind pervading his body? If the frothing of melancholy that had lain heavily on her nipples had made sexual union impossible with Gopinathan Nair, Anand set Radhamony free from that very same melancholy and relieved her. When the gloom that had begun in her ninth year suddenly broke free of its bonds, Radhamony was wonderstruck, her hands slid around Anand’s back, encircled him tightly and made him her own.
But, who will really comprehend the meaning of the question, what had been the position of a girl’s hands?
“Don’t the hands mean that just like Gopinathan Nair, I also cannot satisfy you? You are a queer unquenchable girl!” When Anand said thus one day, all the melancholies returned and Anand became a stranger to Radhamony. She discerned a vulgar coarseness in his fingers too.
If hands are the body’s own, what authority does the mind have over them? Amrish Puri jerked around dramatically, and pointed at Radhamony’s face. Say, where were your hands? On the back, the neck or the head? One cannot dismiss the question why Radhamony was flustered on hearing these screeches. The court too is an encircling situation. The secret of Somasundaram’s success in his job lies at the core of making one say X or Y. Then the lust seeping out of the many pairs of eyes and the saliva coated sounds proceeding from many mouths would touch Radhamony’s body. When all that slimily covers the body that encircles Radhamony, she should say,
At the back or neck or head.
With that, underlining Amrish Puri’s laughs, lawyer Somasundaram would take off his coat. Eventhough, later on, he might sit in the Bar Association Hall, think of his own daughter while sipping hot tea, and ask himself where all this is going to end if one starts arguing that rape occurs in ‘encircling situations,’ he would at present leave the courtroom with all demonstration of happiness.
Radhamony would have to think of the storywriter. Because the meaning underlying the expression ‘the final moments of rape is a partaking in a pleasurable experience which is not purely one sided’ in the story, has become a tightened noose around her neck. The statement ‘how cruelly does the body sometimes deceive the mind’ is also a noose. ‘The body too is a situation and it functions strangely between what is ordinarily called circumstances and a mind’ — this observation is also a snare. That all these nooses have fallen and tightened, causing one to stand in dread of death, with bulged eyes and tongue, is the danger brought about by careless reading.
Radhamony came down the steps of the court sadly; not because of her defeat there, not because Anand had misinterpreted the meaning inherent in the hands, not because she could not co-operate with Gopinathan Nair though she was duty bound to do so, not because she was too bemused to remember the exact position of her hands at the time of the rape, but on considering the most casual manner in which her complex sexual experiences had been represented in meshes that had gone unseen, all the time she had spent reading stories. Can Radhamony who comes out having lost her case in the court, argue her case elsewhere?
Gopinathan Nair was not waiting outside the court. He had made it clear that he was least interested in discussing the philosophic issues or the theoretic dimensions of rape. He said that he was unable to have any kind of contact with Radhamony, once raped. However, he would provide whatever help Radhamony needed to approach a lawyer, the court or to get Murukesan arrested again.
Accordingly, many turning points are possible in the story of Radhamony who comes out defeated from the courtroom. Here is one such turning point.
Later when Radhamony is seen, having had a bath with the best soap available in the market, ‘clothed in gaudy attire, carrying an umbrella and a handbag,’ anyone who recognises that ‘she has wrenched out colours from within her’ and that ‘she is a clear sign which does not require concealment’ and feels that in the situation of his body ‘she is an area which is hot, chilly and wounded,’ tell her,
‘I am one who wandered in search of you.’
Even then, what is the guarantee that he can make amends for the heavy melancholy of all the events that had fallen one after another on Radhamony in the span of twenty six years and make Radhamony’s mind flow into her body?
Translated from Malayalam by Jayasree Ramakrishnan Nair.
Sara Joseph in her story “I Udalenne Chuzhumpol”, subverts Methil Radhakrishnan’s short story ‘Udal oru Chuzhnila’(The Body, an Encircling Situation). The expressions within quotation marks are taken from the above story. To the narrator in Methil’s story, Kokila, the main character, is a part of his body which is hot, cold and wounded — she arouses a sensation comparable to that produced by a drop of after-shave lotion which has fallen on a wound. Subverting the story of Kokila, Sara Joseph emphasises the danger lurking in Methil Radhakrishnan’s suggestions regarding rape and the distancing of the body from the mind. Establishing a strong link between a woman’s body and her mind, she affirms that a rape is a rape, done without the co-operation of a woman. Sara Joseph also points out the light vein in which a woman’s sexuality is expressed. The violated Radhamony in Sara Joseph’s story is positioned in a situation such as one referred in Methil’s story — like Kokila , she too might appear gaudily dressed, an unmistakable sign of what she has become. The pertinent observation the writer puts across is even if someone offers to redeem her, it is highly doubtful whether he can rectify the damage done.
SARA JOSEPH. Is one of the most eminent writers in Malayalam. She writes from a feminist perspective and is conscious of the manifold restrictions that rob a woman’s creativity and limit her freedom of expression. She is not afraid of voicing her views publicly and considers sincere expression as most important for a writer. She has written poems but the short story is the medium, which has given her ample scope for expression. Her story collections include Manassile Ti Matram, Kadinte Sangeetham, Otuvilatte Suryakanti, Papathara, Nilavu Ariyunnu, Kadithu Kandayo Kanta. She is actively involved in the feminist movement in Kerala. She had founded the organization Manushi to make people aware of “women”. She was a teacher of Malayalam in the Collegiate Education Service, Govt. of Kerala.
JAYASREE RAMAKRISHNAN NAIR. Freelance writer and translator. Is the Associate Editor of Samyukta – A Journal of Women’s Studies. Has published many articles and translated many works including four plays of Shakespeare into Malayalam. Interested in Shakespeare Studies, Translation Studies and Women’s Studies. Her doctoral work was on the “Translations of Shakespeare’s Plays in Malayalam.”