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Writing for all of humanity



Sarah Thomas: refusing to be compartmentalised.

NOVELIST SARAH Thomas turns 70 tomorrow. She has been in the world of letters for the past 35 years. And she continues to write even now-- if not prolifically, but poignantly for sure.

She had invaded a domain of male supremacy in the true sense of the term and at a time when Malayalam literature was just entering what has later come to be described as its `golden age'. Sarah Thomas soon made her presence felt in the field and also contributed substantially in enriching the repertoire of Malayalam literature.

Sarath Thomas had started writing long before the concept of feminine literature evolved in Malayalam. She has not yet been able to come to terms with this phrase, which she believes smacks of gender discrimination. "It's not proper to compartmentalise literature into Dalit writing, historical writing or, for that matter, female writing. Whatever be the nature of the work created, writing is essentially for humanity. And it's the union of man and woman that makes a perfect entity and I see humanity in its entirety. Any piece of writing should be for humanity," she believes.

However, she also says that at least three of her stories have been based on women's issues and hastens to add that she was not to be dubbed as being `too feminine', at least when it comes to literature.

For Sarah Thomas, the urge for writing comes from experiences that shock her psyche and shake her being. "There's a chemical reaction that takes place in my mind that prompts me to take up the pen." Most of her acclaimed works have been inspired by experiences that she has had, which might appear to be of no consequence to others. The novel "Narmadippudava" that won for her the Kerala Sahithya Akademy Award in 1979, portrayed a Brahmin girl whose fate it was to agree to marry the man of her father's choice so that he would have a peaceful end. "Murippadukal", later filmed as "Manimuzhakkam", that won several recognitions, including the State award and the `Rejath Kamal' at the national level, is all about an orphan boy. There are three other novels of hers, "Asthamayam", "Pavizhamuthu" and "Archana", which too have been filmed.

She would rate "Daivamakkal", which tells the tale of a Dalit boy, his trials and tribulations as a medical student as well as in later life, as her favourite work. However, this novel did not attract much attention, she recalls. Same was the fate of "Grahanam", narrating the harrowing experiences that a Keralite boy and his lady love, a German, had to undergo in Lebanon.

Both these novels were published at a time when the SPCS and its publication wing, the National Book Stall, were facing a severe crisis and that could have been the reason for the two works not receiving adequate attention, she recalls.

Sarah Thomas loves to travel a lot and she is enriched by each journey that she undertakes. And when she is not writing, she is in the world of colours, `painting her thoughts'.

By J.Ajith Kumar

Photo: S. Mahinsha

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