This book- Itha Innu Muthal, Itha Innale Vare- was thrust into my hand by the manager of the bookstall. ‘You will enjoy it Madam. It is written very well,’ He said. My reading habits are erratic like the monsoons of my birth land. Sometimes, it is furious in its intensity. Sometimes, it is serene as a twilight rain which will smile at one and disappear. Most times, it is just there. I encountered this book in the furious reading phase.
If the hall mark of a good writer is that he or she forces a reader to sit and read, this book is a winner. The writer P.V. Shaji Kumar is a software engineer by training and a lover of literature and movies by passion; and he writes extremely well. In fact, I felt no wonder that he has already won a series of the most coveted awards in Malayalam literature at this young age.
Many memories are related to the writer’s childhood in Kasargode. The language has the vibrancy and authenticity of a true native. There are palpable memories about being a rather ignored goalie in his childhood and from a light mood, a sudden turn into sobriety with an analysis of the Nazi atrocities on footballers in their concentration camps. There are reflections on phantasmagoric imageries of his childhood where he saw a dead girl enjoying a savoury dish of jackfruit curry in a dream sequence, on trains and the melancholy of journeys in those, on his story teller grand aunt who spun the most magnificent horror stories and ended up killing herself in depression, on reading the Russian children’s classic in Malayalam translation : When Daddy Was A Little Boy by Alexander Raskin and on getting to know of Mayakovsky, Gulliver and Robinson Crusoe from that little gem, and love notes on his own land Kalichampothy…
I related best to the frustration of doing computers when the heart was elsewhere. The writer narrates a suicidal point when the worthlessness he felt on facing an examination for which he had no natural aptitude drove him to the brink of ending it all. It was a sudden rain which danced around him that inspired him to live another day.I was left wondering on the young man who came back from death multiple times. Once, after losing his friend, he had tried to jump down from a moving train . As if his deceased best friend stopped his death, he found himself narrowly escaping the train wheels.
The language, the ethos, the words, and the memories are so original and refreshing. In my next round of greedy reading, which is usually abetted by a visit to my own state, I will surely be picking up more of his works.
‘ He chatted with me until the darkness around felt sleepy. There was a pathway into him, which was accessible to any human. This man will exist forever because of his love and care, I found myself thinking…’ ( Who will complete the story of a Man who failed in his life?)
‘The wind was everywhere- in the classrooms, in the canteen, on the rocks, on the paths…it never abated. Like a frustrated lover, it could not sit still and wandered around. When I reached the campus, I was like a leaf in the wind. ‘( The Wind Blows Still)
A bald head rose up from the shrubs, taking the photograph of the sun… He touched my arm. It made a bracelet of water on mine.
( The Frog)
Kalichampothy refers to the land of Kalichan trees. The leaves are huge, and it shivers around like an intoxicated person, this lonesome tree. ( Kalichampothy)
In her eyes sad clouds started camping. Her memories pierced into a silent darkness….It was known to the villagers that when you have nothing to do, memories start hunting you like a fox emerging out of his den.( Enaru)
The small public libraries ( called vayanasalas- literally reading rooms) that were found in every nook and corner of Kerala villages had world classics in innumerable languages translated into Malayalam. That luscious reading culture in India’s most literate state has created many writers and readers. There isn’t a vernacular writer who has not enjoyed Marquez’s Macondo and its rain in his or her mother tongue.The return of the native- in all writing glory- is a tale worth Thomas Hardy himself.
The title is replete with puns which only a true born Malayali gets to enjoy! Now the translator stands stunned as to resolve the conundrum. Perhaps a footnote cannot do justice! It puns on a cult movie title, with wordplay on the present and past. (Perhaps it also hints at a funny scene in yet another movie my brain snarkily comments.)
‘Here, From Today; Here, Till Yesterday’ seems too weak a translation. Yet here it is😁