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A woman, A Teacher, A Child, A Writer, A lover... the book 'Pennu Kothiya Vakkukal' (Words engraved by a woman) is a collection of essays by Dr S Saradhakutty. I have read Saradhakkutty's another book, 'Njan Ningalkethire akasatheyum bhumiyeyum sakshaym vekkunnu' and wanted to write a review on that. However, the length of the name prevented me from adding the product in the list...oh yes, it is a long long title for a book. Thankfully, this time around, the book name is more crisp and pointed and happily I am here with my views.
The book has four sections. In the first section, the reader will find 7 essays, all focused on feminist issues and views. I am not sure if I can call it as feminist views but surely it represent 50 percent of the population and how they look at the society in modern times. When it comes to fighting for equality and woman's rights, there is no joking with Saradhakutty. You will witness the sharpness of words and focus of thoughts in her writing. You will see a 'liberated' woman talk bold and take no nonsense.
In the first essay of 'Chiriyude Theendal' (Untouchability of jokes), the author takes on two issues. First the class system, how the upper class enslave the lower class, next how the males in upper class further make fun of woman irrespective of cast and creed. The reading experience is average and the essay was out of place to begin for a quality book like this. This shortfall however don't stay long for the second essay, 'Sareeram: Maranamulla Daivam (Body: The God which has death) compensate this shortfall completely and reassures the reader that you are in the company of a quality book. The essay deals with woman, religion and mangods. I may be not accepting all the views expressed in this essay as I have my own views and reservations but I cannot deny the quality of writing for it is powerful, hard hitting, well researched and fly like an arrow to its target. Some observations in this essay are simply excellent. I think this is the best essay of the book. Next four essays can go hand in hand. 'Adukkalayil Thilachu Vevunnathu' (Boiled and readied in kitchen) deals with the daily chorus worries of an average woman. Ivide Njan Ennekkanunnu (Here I see msyself) is introspects of the worthless way many woman live and dead without enjoying the freedom or talents. Samooham Arude Bharthavanu (Society: Whose husband is it?) questions the existing system of restrictions imposed on woman and for sex. Veedakangalile Muyalvettakal (Hare hunting inside houses) talks about law and explains how it remains as a security for a cage where a wolf and a hare is put together. The seventh essay takes a character from Bible, Salomi, who asked John the baptists's head for her mother. The author tries to find the view point of Salomi and succeeds partially in it. I am in agreement with many of the observations of the author except two and found the writing powerful and language excellent. The two points of difference are, first is on the definition of God and the second on the institution called marriage.
In part two, the teacher in Dr Saradhakkutty takes in charge, though the woman is still active. The author looks into the life and works of 6 authors of Malayalam in this section. Kovilan, Basheer, MT Vasudevan Nair, Vailoppilly, Madhavikkutty & CV Balakrishnan. The reader will find that the author is completely fascinated by Kovilan, Basheer, Madhavikkutty and by the book 'Ayussinte Pusthakam' by CV Balakrishnan. MT Vasudevan Nair and Vailoppilly however is not that blessed. MTV get some hard hitting for not liberating his woman characters up to expectation where Vailoppilly is targeted for his negative 'feelings' for his free willed mother. My pick from the lot is on Kovilan and Madhavikkutty where the author seems got more influenced.
Part 3 is focusing the children, but has 2 essays. The first essay Athbhudhalokathile adhinivesangal (Invasions to a magic world) is about the need of creative writing to let fly the imagination of the children. The second essay too deals with similar subject, but this time around on stories which influence children. I like the first essay, the flying to the magic world. Indeed the author has a valid point of imagination which is widely missing in the new writers where children go the cartoonish way.
The fourth and final session deals with miscellaneous heads. Here, one essay deals with the beauty of poetry written for silver screen but didn't get the due respect. In another, we will find the nostalgic Radio days and the creative listening we had to the electronic voices. The rest two essays are autobiographical. The essay, 'Oru Pakalorindrajalam' (One day one magic) is a repetition from 'Njan..........', still it was worth reading it again. The best however is been reserved for the last. 'Pranayathinte Vicharabhasha' (Language of Love in thoughts) is from another's life, about the school - college days, the first love and how the eternal feeling permit her to fly. It also tells how the author settled to a routine life but keeping the fire and wings of love. The author has described this essay with utmost sincerity and unforeseen boldness, in excellent words. One of the best essays from the book, it is good enough to recreate wings for your love if you had any and to teach you the magic of love if you didn't have it yet. Wonderful! I wish, the author will write a 'romantic novel' and it will be a master piece, if this essay is of any sample of the talent the writer possess in the genre.
As an independent reader without gender bias, I believe there is a point of view difference between me and the author. While the author identify a female who has to live many female lives of past generations I am of the opinion that a human being has to live the lives of both the male and female lives of the past in the present. I believe a 'female' is a state where they permit to sleep the male qualities of all past male people living in them and a 'male' is a state where they permit to sleep the female qualities of all past female people living in them. At times many a males permit the females in them to dominate their behaviour and vice versa. Here the difference between male and female will be reduced to human body which may nullify many of our reservations.
Another point is that these essays, I believe are previously been published in magazines but the reference is missing in the book. I think it is a courtsy and a credit to the magazines which made these essays possible. One point I noticed and liked in the book is the titles for the essays and for the book. Only an imaginative person can do this where they are intriguing and excellent.
Having said all, 'Pennu Kothiya Vakkukal' is a very good read for its quality writing and excellent thought process. The two essays, 'Sareeram: Maranamulla Dhaivam' and 'Pranayathinte Vicharabhasha' are my pick from the lot and these two essays alone worth the money one pays for the book. It is difficult to hook a reader of modern days for serious reading of essays but Saradhakutty not only made that possible but makes you a fan of her with her creative writing and daring thought process and heartfelt sincerity. As the author rightly says in the book, in the absence of good criticism, books die early; but I believe authors like Saradhakutty is a ray of hope in the new horizon.
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