Swimming Hard, Staying Light: Annie Thayyil on Facing the Challenge of Staying Alive

Translated by J Devika

[These translated chapters and the excerpt from a third chapter are from the autobiography of the veteran Congress woman Annie Thayyil (Annie Joseph) (1920-1994) (Edangaziyile Kurisu, Kottayam: DC Books, 1990), who was a prominent presence in politics in the Cochin state and among the first women to contest and win the elections in pre-Independence Cochin state. She was a member of the Cochin Legislative Council between 1945 and 1951, but struggled to stay in heavily male-dominated politics, supporting herself through her writing, and often at the brink of penury.  She however  ran a press, edited a paper and a magazine (Prajamitram and Vanitha) , earned a law degree in between, and served on Central Social Welfare Board, Catholic Congress, and later, on the National Minorities Commission. As a translator of classic literature to Malayalam and a writer, she was also on the executive council of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi. Her life was a remarkable quest for lightness and independence, as is evident from these chapters.

But equally interesting — and disturbing — is the dynamics of her relationship with her household help — the subaltern — Velama.  The critical history of the power dynamics between women in unfolding Malayali modernity needs to be traced through accounts such as these.] Continue reading “Swimming Hard, Staying Light: Annie Thayyil on Facing the Challenge of Staying Alive”