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Book Review: Thakshankunnu Swaroopam by UK Kumaran and Jayasankar Keezhayi

Thakshankunnu Swaroopam is a sociopolitical embedded novel with micro diversity as its rich theme. The novel recounts the historical, cultural, political and other aspects of the region of 100 years. The timeline of the novel is around the mid 20th century when the British Raj was getting debilitated by the grip of the Indian freedom struggle. Through a long cast of characters, the story of the novel explores various roles of life that the people lived there. The region was called Thakshankunnu – the author has lucidly explained about its snake-related mythological origin.

The novel was first written in Malayalam by U K Kumaran, and translated in English by Jayasankar Keezhayi. The latter has done a fabulous job as the story chugs ahead so smoothly, without losing the sheen of its originality. The happenings of the place is multi-focused, mainly village, but getting affected by cities and India’s tussle for independence. The storyline captures the essence of life of people through some prominent characters like Ramar, the iron lady Maathamma, the tailor Kunhikkelu, Dr Shreedharan, the freedom fighter Kelappan, Muslim boy Chekku and many more.

A close look reveals that there the low-caste people were harassed by rich and high class. The novel takes a serious note of it, like banter the discrimination amid both classes keeps going on till the end. Despite their internal gaps and strife, it’s notable that this region remained in the grip of main political events taking place across the country. Ramar is a very bold and detailed character. He sees Thakshankunnu go through a transformation epoch of comradeship and communal disharmony, of India becoming independent, good and bad people ticking the image of the village…notable ones were his stepmother, that soldier who conversed in Marathi, INA soldiers being harassed by police, a compounder running away with a doctor’s wife…and much more. The more one gets acquainted with the place, the more he/she is likely to feel nostalgic towards the end as one by one many characters and companions of Ramar leave this world for the new generation to live and cope.

Another ravishing factor in the storytelling is the pre and post independence behavior of people of Thakshankunnu. There was a lot of buzz when the freedom movements were going on. People like Ramar, Chekku, and Dr Shreedharan were not only involved but at times also watched the nation’s zeitgeist with keen interest. Thakshankunnu is a province to be remembered even if one finishes the book long ago. It was as lively as any ecosystem of milling crowd and culture. For historical fiction lovers, this book is nothing less than a fair treat.

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