A Novel by Pon Kulendiren
.This novel deals with five generations of a Tamil man from Manapad village in Tirunelvelli district of Tamil Nadu ,who emigrated to Ceylon (Srilanka ) to work in the Tea estate under
the British rule .The story spans over a period of three centuries 19th to 21st. The events and characters appearing in this story are so real and very interesting to the reader, as they are filled with historical data very well documented .I really marvel
at the pains taken by the author to research the facts and figures given in this novel, as they are so valuable and important . Especially the description of pearl fishing around gulf of Mannar ,now extinct due to the advent of cultured pearls undertaken by
many other countries. The hardships underwent by the laborers at salt pans of Tuticorin and last but not least the plight of Tea estate workers of Srilanka who are treated as second class citizens even now.
for this book has been written by M.K.Elaventhan our former M.P. and presently living in Toronto. He has quoted from the Ceylon Hansard the speeches of some of our eminent Tamil politicians, who fought for the rights and better social status for our
upcountry brethren, living in squalid conditions and being ill treated by the estate Superintendents and the Srilankan government. The speech of Sir P.Ramanathan is so very appealing(Ceylon Hansard of 1928), wherein he refers to the Sinhalese who entered Ceylon
illegally 2500 years ago calling the recent arrivals from India as illegal immigrants and ordering them 'to get out '. This is like the kettle calling the pot black. The political history, the origin and background of the upcountry Tamils have been brought
out in this book so vividly, even though it is a fiction. This novel is like that of many novels written by one of our famous historical novel writer Kalki ,who pioneered in this field. His stories are intertwined with fiction and facts and hence speaks about
the richness and the splendor of our Tamil kings namely Chera ,Chola and Pandiyans. Pon Kulendiren has followed his footsteps and produced this wonderful novel in English, which is commendable.
There are lots of details
of the pearl fishing industry, which may not be available in any history book and hence will be an interesting and informative reading for many . Similarly the life of salt pan workers in Tuticorin during the British rule are well documented .It gives
a real picture of their trials and tribulations. The unfortunate plights of the women folk who worked there, had no proper toilette facilities and hence refrained from drinking or eating during the day, so as to avoid the call of nature. These deplorable conditions
have been ignored or allowed to continue by the administration, which was bent on making money . I wonder how the author was able to collect painstakingly all these facts and figures.
Through the length and breadth of this novel the author has thrown
several historical and scientific facts revealing his ingenuity and flare for details . He has given details of not only of towns and villages of Srilanka but also the places of historical importance of towns and villages of Tirunevely district of Tamil Nadu.
He describes the past history of each and every village and the important people who lived there during those bygone years. Historical figures like Kattabomman , Ettappan ,Karuththa Naykkar , Maruthu Pandiyar ,Velu Nachiyar are referred to in this novel with
small details of their activities and patriotism . Along with these, details of distances between villages and towns and the years when those people lived , the political situation during those times , the wages paid to the salt pan workers and many more are
included in this novel. I would say that this novel is a treasure house of many interesting and informative details.
Another noteworthy feature of this novel is that each chapter's subtitle contains the name of the person, whose story is
described in detail there .In other words he is the hero of that particular chapter. For example the subtitle of the chapter 1, is Veerasamy born in the year 1850 and was living in Manapad village of Tuticorin . This chapter mainly deals with his ancestors,
their occupation , the social status of his kith and kin and various details of his village etc. Likewise every chapter deals with the main character in that chapter whose name is given as the subtitle. This is a novel idea, but some details and events are
repeated in other chapters too, as the story centers around the same family members of five generations.
Chapter 5 tells the story of Kannusamy the only son of Veerasamy who went by boat illegally to the tea estate town of Maskeliya in Srilanka .His
life there as a laborer describes the painful and inhuman treatment of all the workers in all the estates under the British rule. The vivid descriptions given in this chapter brings out a true picture of the hardships of these poor souls then and even
now. I have a feeling the author may have visited one or two this places during his life in Srilanka and hence this minute details of life of an estate worker.
Chapter 13 tells the story of Velusamy son of Sellasamy, a postman at Maskeliya. Velusamy
starts his early life as a servant in Jaffna with a rich man's family and ended up as an Assistant government agent, in the Srilankan administrative service. This is a story of a person from rags to riches. This happens very rarely to a person amidst
the Jaffna Tamil families who mostly ,ill treated their servants during those times .The author has brought out various scenarios from most parts of Srilanka and Tamil Nadu and make the reader to ponder over the inhuman treatment of the down trodden by the
rich then and even now. Over all this novel stands out as a historical document with a fictional background without much fanfare .I congratulate Pon for his wonderful imagination and story- telling technique.
In conclusion I would like to point out
that the get up of the book is done well, l but it would have been better if the font size had been bigger, as it would have enhanced an easy reading for seniors. Attention may have been paid for in the editing too ,to avoid unnecessary repetition of events