The female psyche
THE GUILTY AND OTHER STORIES: Vaasanthi, translated by V. Ramnarayan and Gomathi Narayan; Indialog Publications Pvt. Ltd., O-22, Lajpat Nagar II, New Delhi-110024. Rs. 195.
THIS COLLECTION of stories written by well known Tamil novelist, Vaasanthi, probes into the heart of the female psyche indicating that a change may be possible in attitudes but solutions are still far away.
The translators have made a successful attempt to unravel the intricacies of this sensitive text and have given a collection, which is eminently readable.
In "The guilty," which is a short-long novel, the protagonist, Uma, carries a burden of guilt, which dissolves only in the last page, when she becomes a complete woman.
The translator has handled the Brahmin speech rhythms with certain felicity and a note of authenticity persists throughout the text.
The Tamil Brahmin milieu is captured entirely as the story unfolds another hidden tale macabre but necessary for the final denouement. As the real reason behind Parvathi's suicide is revealed, Uma loses her frigidity and becomes an adult.
In "Murder" the tyrannical patriarch faces his deserts and in "Prison", the longsuffering wife gains deliverance through sudden death. Endurance, self-sacrifice and survival seem to be the pattern of life for women in the subsequent tales.
Rangamani, the professional midwife, ("Poison") who finds the task of killing female infants at birth, for a living, experiences suddenly pangs of guilt and absconds.
In "The Ashes", again it is guilt, which makes the protagonist hallucinate between the past and the present guilt for having forsaken his family for the sake of greener pastures abroad.
Among the short stories "The journey", dealing with the plight of a 98-year-old woman, is most poignantly related. The final bizarre scene has the awesome qualities of a Greek tragedy.
"The Seeking" once again is about a battered woman, this time driven out of her mind, by her entrapment. In "What she said" the complex nature of romantic love, friendship and marriage is delineated with astuteness.
The stories are about hidden truths that lie beneath the surface in every human being. When circumstances act as catalysts, the true nature of "self," effaces bringing about a conclusion.
Although some of the themes may be overworked, the stories have sharp South Indian contours and the translators have faced this challenge with confidence.
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