Perhaps it was best that it happened this way. The idea lay in my mind germinating. On and off these days, it occurs to me that if I had let the thought lie for a longer while, it would have ripened and burgeoned further For many days, T had talked at length about it.
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Perhaps it was best that it happened this way. The idea lay in my mind germinating. On and off these days, it occurs to me that if I had let the thought lie for a longer while, it would have ripened and burgeoned further For many days, T had talked at length about it. At times, the novel Chemmeen that I was planning to write sounded almost like a threat. This included Mundasseri Master who was like a venerable older brother to me.
It was a time when progressive literature was grappling with the Gordian knot of maintaining structural sanctity. No matter what Dev and I wrote, we were hemmed in by catcalls and howls of outrage. Dev was unable to even sleep in his house in Pudupally. In an insidious way and almost without his own knowledge, a land dispute had slowly led to his becoming part of the Congress party. Could there be any peace thereafter? He claimed that the people of Pudupally disliked the fact that he had become a landowner.
There were no raucous cries or declarations of disgust. No study classes were organized against me. It makes me want to laugh thinking of those days. The arguments in favour and against what I wrote ran a peculiar course. And there were enough protest groups who expressed their antipathy towards me. It was a chaotic literary environment.
However I continued to write. I remember a story from K. Yes, writing like the drum beat has a purpose — to disrupt everyone. The Thiruvalla—Ambalapuzha road runs in front of my house. This is an important road. There is the constant whine of traffic. In those days, this road was a narrow canal. I kept two boats locked to the pier there. I brought the stone, lime, timber and gravel required to build my house in these boats.
The gate that you see now was the pier from which I accessed the canal for my daily swim and bath. In those days what was unique and convenient about my house was its proximity to the canal. The land was 28 cents in all. Kaatha, our children and I lived in a two-roomed house with a lean-to.
It was built of laterite stone with bamboo rafters and a coconut palm leaf thatch. Kaatha and I dreamt day and night of making this into a more solid and secure structure. Though I had written over seven novels and several stories, I was unable to build this dream house. Some of those novels had even been successful. Suddenly, I had two sources of inspiration: one, to provide a fitting retort to the drum beat of speculation around me; two, to roof our house with wood and tiles and make it into a light and airy home.
My intimacy with the seaside began when I was nine years old. I knew. My mind was flooded with thoughts of the sea goddess and the chakara. One morning, 1 stuffed a few shirts and mundus into a bag and walked to Ambalapuzha.
I was on my way to Kottayam. In those days, to reach Kottayam, one had to go to Ambalapuzha and then catch a boat from there. If I set out from Thakazhi in the morning, by the time I had caught the connecting bus and boat, it would be 2. A lodge. It was managed by one Mr Mathai. Mr Mathai ran a strictly vegetarian restaurant on the east road. The food there was cooked to very exacting standards and in the utmost of hygienic conditions. The lodge that Mr Mathai ran was owned by the Karapuzha Arakkal family.
It was the dialect of the seaside that I had heard sincc I was nine. Of the many people who visited the lodge every evening or the Boat House Lodge as it was called, oik person deserves a special mention.
To read what I had written that day. And so C. Thomas became the first person to read Chemmeen. Kizhakkemuri was plso one of my regular visitors. And thus by the eighth day, the story of Chemmeen fell in place. Only then did Mathai Pottey let me drink some beer. Chemmeen sold very well. We made rafters of timber and laid tiles on it. We added a few more rooms. But how we added to the 28 cents land is yet another story.
Chemmeen was the first Malayalam novel to receive the then just announced Sahitya Akademi award. I received it from Jawaharlal Nehru. Radhakrishnan looked on and applauded. With that money, I bought 60 para of paddy fields at Kolathadi padam. Chemmeen was translated into many languages. It was first translated into Czech. Kamil Zelabil was the translator. He was a Tamil scholar who later studied Malayalam. When he came to Madras, he heard about this Malayalam novel Chemmeen.
In between, after me Czech translation, the Russian translation appeared. Who would have thought the drum beat would have helped accomplish as much? Was it an act of triumph? It would be presumptuous of me to claim that. For only time will tell. An attack of madness. Chemmeen — the translation — was born of one such coup de foudre.
I was between novels. The writing of Mistress had filled my life so absolutely that suddenly I had a huge empty space when the novel as written. What was I going to do with myself? I had fallen in love with KathakaJi all over again on reading Nalacharitham. Surely the rest of the world ought to be able to draw pleasure from it as I had.
Find the solace it offered in moments of abject darkness. It became a dream project that grew in my mind until one day I mentioned this grand obsession to Karthika at HarperCollins. As all good editors and as all good friends, she counselled that I cut my translation teeth on something not as ambitious but just as magnificent.
Like what? I asked Chemmeen? From somewhere the strains of a song wafted in my head. The desolate Pareekutty singing his heart out on a moon-drenched seashore.
Scenes from the film Chemmeen played out in my head. Was chitchat turning into something of consequence? Was rhat how i happened? Un coup dc fnudre. What else? I had no formal education in Malayalam. What I did have was an ability to understand and comprehend the nuances of the language. During the writing of Mistress I had worked in a few translations of Kathakali attakathas into the narrative.
A translation would require me to walk the way of another writer and see his landscape and characters through his eyes. Would I have the restraint to bridle the desire to tweak a thought here, add a dimension there? To bring forth the beauty of a book without succumbing to the need to edit.
Chemmeen by Thakazi Sivasankara Pillai
She is in love with a young fish trader, Pareekutty Madhu. Pareekutty finances Chembankunju to realise this dream. This is on a condition that the haul by the boat will be sold only to him. The fisherfolks believe that a fisherwoman has to lead a life within the boundaries of strict social traditions. Karuthamma sacrifices her love for Pareekutty and marries Palani Sathyan , an orphan discovered by Chembankunju in the course of one of his fishing expeditions.
ചെമ്മീൻ | Chemmeen
He finally succeeds in buying both with the help of Pareekutty, a young Muslim trader, on condition that the fish hauled by the boat will be sold to him. Karuthamma sacrifices her love for Pareekutty and marries Palani, an orphan discovered by Chembankunju in the course of one of his fishing expeditions. In his fury, Chembankunju disowns her. On acquiring a boat and a net and subsequently adding one more, Chembankunju becomes more greedy and heartless. With his dishonesty, he drives Pareekutty to bankruptcy. After the death of his wife, Chembankunju marries Pappikunju, the widow of the man from whom he had bought his first boat. Meanwhile, Karuthamma has endeavoured to be a good wife and mother.