Saturday, May 28, 2011

டாக்டர் சித்ரா சங்கரனின் ஆங்கில விமர்சனம்

டாக்டர் சித்ரா சங்கரனின் ஆங்கில விமர்சனம்

Foreword for Nuval

Chitra Sankaran

National University of Singapore.

It has long been the contention of postcolonial and feminist literary theorists, both champions of the ‘periphery’, that the ‘so-called’ mainstream canonical texts mostly reflect the views of the dominant class. This is the reason why these theorists have invested a lot of scholarly resources and time retrieving voices around and about ‘the margins’. Due to their efforts, literary narratives that depict the predicaments of ethnic minorities within the nation space; that speak the language of the disempowered; that resonate to the plight of the deprived; that communicate from an insider’s perspective on the problems of the powerless, are no longer excluded from the canon but are perceived as works that redefine the nature and scope of literature. I would not hesitate to place Kamaladevi Arvindan’s Nuval in this category of works which with extraordinary sensitivity and clarity reconfigure our notions of reality about the world around us.

The stories in this collection touch upon the predicaments of individuals who live in our midst but whose plights are hidden from our view. The less than prepossessing middle-aged man who plans to seduce his maid, the old lady with incontinence, the construction worker from India who has lost a finger in an industrial accident are entirely credible depictions. The author enables our entry into their personal dilemmas through using a range of stylistic devices such as appropriate registers and apposite dialectical variations. Also, like Narayan’s Malgudians, the dilemmas these characters face are never dramatic, never cataclysmic. They are the normal problems of everyday life which may not impact on anyone other than themselves. Thus for Muthaiyya, the epiphanic moment comes when the maid he desires sexually calls him ‘appa’. His initial turmoil and the clarity gained thereafter are completely internal to him. Similarly, Renu’s angst over the escaped pet parrot is hardly a grand tragedy and yet her emotional reactions are human and understandable.

Another interesting feature of the collection is how, true to literary works that are not afraid to speak of the liminal, stories like ‘Thaagam” describe the sufferings of a young woman in the throes of menstrual pain. As feminist theorists point out, in the so-called ‘high’ literatures within patriarchy, a description of women’s personal pain, be it of childbirth or incontinence, or other bodily ailments, has always been tabooed and disdained, whereas ironically, gory scenes of war and mutilated body parts of war victims are graphically described in epics, traditionally considered the most ‘highbrow’ of literary genres. This writer’s determination to break such taboos shows that the ambiguity and tension inherent in the convergence between “high” and “low” genres” bring about innovative and insightful narratives. Finally, one of the enduring features of Kamaladevi Aravindan’s work is her pervasive humour. This is subtle, never overblown but perceptive. She sheds a benevolent yet ironic eye on various human foibles but is never judgemental or prescriptive in her approach.

Overall this refreshing collection of stories offers sensitive sketches of Singaporean life in its various façades. It also serves as a timely reminder that individual talent can potentially force us to review what is venerated in literary.

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