The whole world went berserk with Harry Potter. But, I finished reading all the seven books only this January. People couldn’t stop raving about Gone Girl. I met the book this March. And thus, the lazy me acquired one of the most controversial books, Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman last week, when all the hullabaloo over it died down ages ago.
A good friend recommended One Part Woman, and insisted that I read it in Tamil, in which it was originally written. Madhorubagan, the Tamil version wasn’t available. I couldn’t wait, so I ordered the translated one. One Part Woman.
I try hard to not sound snobbish when I say I haven’t relished a lot of Indian literature. I adore RK Narayan, Ruskin Bond, Kalki, Sujatha… the celebrated authors from my land. But, I haven’t particularly enjoyed the works of popular contemporary writers. However, after having read Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman, I grew worried about how many such brilliant works haven’t won spotlight yet. I told myself — I should dig deeper.
One Part Woman was banned in Tamil Nadu, and the author penned his own obituary on his Facebook page, adding that he would quit writing. Now I pray that he shouldn’t quit. We need more books like One Part Woman.
Kali and Ponna are an awww-inducing couple. The only worry that casts a shadow on their perfect life is their inability to have a child. The society ridicules the couple. They take a brave stab most times. But, every now and then, they succumb to it. When every measure they take to become parents turn futile, their mothers suggest a radical idea. It shakes Kali. He dismisses the idea. But, Ponna, who is filled with an all-consuming passion for motherhood, nods to play along with the old women, jeopardising her marriage.
Perumal Murugan’s narrative is vivid. It’s so vivid that the images haven’t escaped my memory, although I finished reading it four days ago. While I loved everything about One Part Woman, I found the climax surreal.
I remember the moment when I finished reading it. It was 5 am. The room was cool, and I couldn’t sleep, for my brain was impregnated with the book that I stopped reading the previous night. I woke up just to complete reading it. As I turned one page after the other feverishly, I realised I was as restless as Kali and Ponna. Their feelings escaped from the book, and penetrated my head seamlessly. I was livid because Kali was furious. I was anxious because Ponna was nervous. Ah, and the last few scenes, which were set in the chariot festival, were bizarre. But, bizarre in an extraordinary way. Bizarre in an unforgettable way. Bizarre in a liberating way.
Quite a few hours after I bade farewell to One Part Woman, I opened my next book. I began reading, but I could just see words. The immersion seemed to have been thwarted, because I had left my heart in the surreal world created by Perumal Murugan. I closed my eyes and heaved a deep sigh.