by Eric Alagan
Eric manages to use an earthquake and superstition to exact revenge. But I go ahead of myself.
This book is about the merchant classes. Not that kings don’t make an appearance, they do and they are disappointing. They are feeble. Unjust and cruel, just like most kings we read about. No, the merchant class is not any better.
A brief description of the main characters is given below. In the case of the Pandyan court, I have dealt with the court as an individual though I promise nothing is lost. There is everything horrible happening in that court. And the same can be said of the Arakans. The author does not differentiate them so much to cover a big spectrum of behavior or character. The men are strong. The women are fat. All of them are charitable and generous.
Kovalan, the son of a prosperous merchant has only one thing going for him, he is upright. His business ventures don’t do well even his marriage suffers, first from three miscarriages, then folly and finally death. I don’t know how a man with his right senses would leave his woman to go live with another for two years and expect the wife will just be waiting.
Madhavi! What should I say about her or her folk? Sly. Conniving. Ambitious. And maybe cruel.
Kannagi. Here, Eric, you didn’t do justice. Her character wasn’t well developed. She is so passive until the end when she acts bravely to avenge her good husband, Kovalan.
Anandan! The carefree, and I would, for lack of a better word, loose, brother to Kannagi. He never saw a woman he didn’t want to bed. Was unkind to their house servants. Only drew the line at Madhavi and any woman he considered pure. An astute business man and a good friend too.
Savaali, the Silent One and all the Arakans. Now, these are my heroes. The problems of nuclear families, this is my child, is not a problem to them. The parentage of the child is not definite and the whole community is involved in their upbringing. They have received a bad rap for crimes they have not committed but come out on top of the pack as being very upright and gentle fellows.
The Pandyan court. A place of injustice. It would interest Machiavelli. It is here where the final drama is enacted. The place where Kovalan is redeemed or rather redeems himself but dies ( the question for the previous post) and Kannagi exacts vengeance. When her husband is killed unjustly on the orders of the king and following the treachery of the Royal Jeweler, she forces an audience with the king during a state reception of Roman guests (and here Eric employs superstition to full effect). An earthquake that he alluded to earlier erupts, and it is during this earthquake, well after she has accused the king, proved the innocence of her husband and the guilt of the jeweler that she sets fire to the curtains and the palace is engulfed in fire. Savaali comes to the rescue and upon her death, the story is retold until she becomes a goddess.
Well, the story is well told. Eric brings about the issue of Sati practice among Indian widows. Faithfulness in marriage but contrasts it immediately with the Arakan freedom. The place of women in traditional society and even present is all discussed.
The style is easy. I like short paragraphs and Eric uses them well. The narration is good though once in a while you might forget who is the speaker. I had this problem, especially in the beginning. And I think with the death of Kovalan, our author took liberties because he has Kovalan telling us what happens to his head after it has been severed from his body by the executioner.
Thank you Eric for an autographed copy of the book and for weaving a beautiful yearn.