Gnanakkan onRu irundhidum bothile …
When you have the eyes of wisdom … (P. 66)
The Heroine and Other Stories is an impressively great collection of various eloquent stories by D. Jayakanthan. Originally written in Tamil, the stories are translated by Deepalakshmi J with an influential foreword by Ambai.
Born on 24th April 1934, in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, D Jayakanthan was a writer, journalist, film-maker, critic, orator and activist. Recipient of Padma Bhushan (2009), Sahitya Akademi Award (1972) and many more awards and honorary titles, he is an indelible inspiration for many. His stories depict a genuine and effortless essence of Indian society and people. His protagonists are common men and women, yet their stories are remarkable.
The first story of the collection is “The Heroine”. Madhuram, the protagonist, is a devoted wife, mother and homemaker. Women who sacrifice themselves for their family are heroines indeed. However, our heroine Madhuram suffered betrayal. Collecting the shattered self she made an unexpected decision that changed everything, even her backstabbers.
In the story “The Crucifixion”, Catherine, a young nun tries all of her will not to look at the young man seated across her in a bus.
“Is he not good enough to look at? But then, all sins are attractive… Had only Adam and Eve stayed clear off the forbidden fruit…” (P. 33)
Feeling guilty of her distraction she goes through a devastating dream and at the end a startling confession.
Our next heroine, Kunjammal, in the story “New Horizon” let her daughter go away with the man she loved. Whether she was wrong or right, the readers may judge themselves. Although, as the story says,
“Humans are pretty odd elements… The malleable ones get better moulded… The brittle one get broken.” (P. 97)
The book also contains some beautiful stories revealing the plight of men. In the story, “The Pervert”, Dr. Raghavan can bear his lonely life, thanks to his cook Raman Nair, his friends, and his favourite – erotica. His encounter with Radha – a young woman with a complicated life, proved whether he is a pervert or a saint.
Raman, a character from another story, “The Guilty” is guilty and ashamed of his deed and so is Kumaran, the protagonist of “The Masquerade”. Kumaran’s friend, Veeran or a good-for-nothing loafer, as he calls himself accompanies him in his ‘expedition’. The reasons of guilt in both the stories and its consequences are intriguing.
In the story, “The Pallbearers”, one may witness the emotional breakdown of a childless couple after a tragic incident which is not even related to them, but their emotions had some connection.
“A Friend Indeed” elaborates the true meaning of friendship. A friend in need is a friend indeed; but for how long? What was Venu’s true intention behind his act of not helping a friend in need?
Somanathan – Parameswaran’s mentor is one of the three persons Parameswaran idealizes. Though, the turning point of this story, “The Truth” approaches with the arrival of an anonymous letter which brutally harms Parmeswaran’s faith towards his mentor.
“Beyond Cognizance” illustrates the power of blessings. A mere charity of two anna coin to a blind beggar and his blessing turns out to be a huge shield truly beyond cognizance.
Among all these stories of human experiences and emotions, friendship and trust, strength and guilt, there is also a serene tale of love. “It’s Only Words” features Rukmini – a congenitally blind basket-weaver. The readers will find her waiting for a stranger, Kannappan, who aroused a longing for companion in her heart and left without a word. Will he comeback?
“Even Brindavan is not far, for in your eyes I see the lord” (P. 67)
Therefore, we can conclude with a say, that every story of this collection has its own beauty and each presents a different lesson for the world. With emotionally variant characters in different circumstances of life and their unanticipated actions and reactions, this book is everything a genuine reader relishes. The language is simple, yet captivating. This collection is undeniably a glorious tribute to D. Jayakanthan, indeed a great effort of Deepalakshmi J. to make his eminent stories available to wider audience.
Bhabya Singh (Columnist, Reviews) is a student of Commerce (pursuing Post-Graduation); however, with a fond love towards literature she thrives to read and write.