Netronmeelanam by K .R. Meera : A Note

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“Netronmeelanam,” is a tough title for even those who understand Malayalam well. Poetic, having imageries of both eyes and a sort of merging,  the word with probable Sanskritic etymology, means the art of drawing eyes, in an environment of soulfulness, onto  murals, paintings or sculptures. Every artist worth her pencil would know that it is  a sacred act – the eyes will be the one to be drawn at  the very last. If they see well, you have caught the spirit truly.

Verily it is said in the Holy Bible: ” The eye is the lamp of the body. So then, if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If the light that is in you is darkness, how great the darkness..”

K.R. Meera’s novel, ” Netronmeelanam”, is like a black and white movie. It plays with blindness and sight, perspective and lack of it, losing eye sight literally, metaphorically, regaining an outlook, changing a way of looking. The novel , if you draw an analogy to a human being, looks deep inside, outside, sideways, closes its eyes and opens them wide.

The writer plays with light in almost all sentences, including the names of her characters:Deepti, Jyoti, Rajani, Prakashan, Shyaman, Abha, Suraj,  Suprabha, Chandramohan, Shivsubramaniya Rao ( I imagined the third eye  of Shiva and the birth of Kartikeya)- there is a smattering of light and dark every where.

The love story is  as complex as an Orhan Pamuk story of obsession; for what is lost forever. This museum of innocence is filled with images of a pregnant Deepti who vanishes inexplicably one night. Everywhere you turn, you encounter her light; ironically not unlike  that of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca- that sinister presence all across Manderlay. Rejany, dark with long plait that resembles a snake, is the living , breathing, passionate woman who falls in love with the blind hero. Unfortunately, he does not have the inner eye to see her light. Some people, Prakashan epitomising that characteristic, are always doomed to thirst for what is lost and will not value those who are present in flesh and blood. The father’s story, the brilliant wordplay notwithstanding, seemed slightly contrived to me. Still, Meera’s love affair with Bengal shows the spark from within this work too.

There were too many jumps onto poetic imagination. Shyaman finding love serendipitously, the story of Jyoti’s Netronmeelanam, the mad woman in the redemption saga, hmmm, I was left a little dissatisfied. Two stories flashed in my mind, in between: somewhere in the past I had read Mukundan’s tale about a corporate top shot,abnegating it all, and choosing to toil as a farmer in some hinterlands. Jyoti’s life and its exaggerated loving simplicity, reminded me of that one. And disturbingly came the memory of that classic  vernacular short story, ( I forget the title )of a father and son returning to the paternal home after the mother committed suicide. What was the name? It tantalises me with its unreachability. Maybe it was Chandramohan’s story that triggered that particular brooding.

Meera’s incomparable  gift  for wordplay and imageries shocks and delights equally:

” The woman tasted of rust.”pg.20

” Beyond the skyscrapers, an ugly cloud afraid of the night, got ready to commit suicide on the branch of the sunset.” Pg 28

“Along the pathway by the side of the canal, to deceive the sightless, the jasmine flower clad night, lay down, her hair loose.” Pg 34

” They found each other like bats, using sound..” Pg 41

” He could see the image of the tree, covered in a black gown, hanging on the sky..”pg 65

I admire the deeply intelligent writing as much as her scintillating prose.

Yes, more of her works are coming my way this week, hopefully.

Let me sketch a face now. I have  to try that sacred ritual- Netronmeelanam…

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Words , Pictures, Word- Pictures

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Mitra Kamalam has sketched Frida Kahlo on the cover page of Malayalam Weekly’s special issue of 100 remarkable young women of Kerala.( March 13 issue) I did not see any acknowledgement about the same though. Interestingly, in another story called ‘ Play school’, she continued with the same sketching pattern- complete with down of moustache and joint eyebrows, clear marks of Frida, in another edition( May 8). I am all for developing a characteristic style, but giving credit where it is due, would be nice. No person who has read about Frida,  seen her self portraits, or seen Salma Hayek enact her, can fail to catch the resemblance. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, yes. But we live in a world where the readers should never be taken for granted , yes?

I do love Vijayalakshmy. Hers is a gifted pen. She made me read more about Oliver Sacks, the great Neurologist and writer, through her perfect ode to him. Often I think, hers is a talent that is incomparable. The sweetness of the words, the rhyme, the depth and insight- I fervently wish that the poetess start gifting us more prose along with her poetry. I also admire her for her erudition and deep humility. I feel as if I am in the presence of something ineffably pure. I get a glimpse of the omnipresent whenever I read Vijayalakshmy.

Amal writes a  serial novel called ‘ Vyasana Samuchayam’ in Malayalam Weekly.It was just by chance that I browsed through one issue- but suddenly it hit me. Wow!  Such humour laced with irony. Deep perception about the new generation issues and crimes, effortless handling of different dialects of Malayalam and somewhere the writer’s laughter- quiet and bubbling. I found myself hungrily searching for other issues and trying to catch up with his story. Now that is a talent to watch out for.Kudos to the magazine for noticing that  gifted writer.

The Good Samaritan anecdote from the Bible is known to everyone. In his poem’ Transcendalism’ , K.R.Tony revisits the story in present day Kerala. A poor man is harassed in all possible ways by  four passers by ( one takes off his shirt and beats him badly, the second removes his dhoti, the third his inner wear, the fourth murders him). Then the poet sharpens his razor of a pen.

In the last stanza (I am trying to translate)

‘That fool, who landed in the hands of the Hated

Among those , who was the Good Samaritan?

Thoreau said- the one who showed him compassion!

Jesus exhorted- Go and do what he did.’

( Malayalam April 24)

Benyamin’s Goat Days remains a personal favourite. I ended up reading his interview in one magazine, and his travelogue series in another. One thought which sprang to my mind after reading his interview about his writing destiny was this:

Why is it that writing engenders so much intolerance and hatred among the society? Why do the power of words scare some  people so much? Why do critics tear apart what they do not like?

I am glad that he is clear about his own strength in his  sojourn. To write a book, which makes a human being better in his  or her life’s journey, that is a rare privilege given to him by his writing destiny. May he continue to delight readers with his writing. For every critic, there would be a new reader who smiles after closing his book.

This is also what I wished to tell K.R.Meera , when I read a  nasty feedback about her novel in a magazine. The famous writer M.Mukundan had written positively about her novel ‘ Arachaar’ . A letter to the editor denounced both Mukundan and the novel saying that Google maps had done most of  the work! I laughed on reading that observation. Let the Amazons of the world flow into such brains- you have nothing to lose but your jealousy! Perhaps, even those waters of the ‘RiverSea’ might not be able to wash clean the pettiness of small minds. Well, to each, his own. But for each critic…