The Writer’s Words: Lalitambika Antharjanam: Part One

[In this short essay, Lalitambika reflects on her practice of writing. It appeared as a prefatory note to her volume of collected short stories (Kottayam: DC Books, 2009, pp.xxix-xxxii)

It is the interest in life, after all, that urges one to re-create life. Fulsome works of art can emerge only from the brimming over of the love of life. The momentary interactions that the five senses make possible in an inner realm and turn into sensation. In that dream-like background composed of the truthfulness of reality and the colours of the imagination is born the impulse to literature — one could say, like the rays of sun falling on the moon and turning into moonlight. Dreams are more beautiful than reality. Though a seed germinates in the soil, it grows and spreads and bears fruit in the wide-open sky, truly. The seeds of stories are also like this. They become works of art only in they grow.

Continue reading “The Writer’s Words: Lalitambika Antharjanam: Part One”

K Saraswathi Amma : Ramani (Part 2)

“But wouldn’t that decision been the sounder one? Ramanan was deeply wounded when he was abandoned. His life withered away, true. But if Chandrika had been faithful to her love, how many lives would have withered and died? The parents would not have lasted long at the sight of their daughter’s despicable fecklessness. Chandrika needs not Kuchela’s pure-hearted poverty but Kubera’s riches even if it is impure. Does not Ramanan who is forever singing “This world is not a fantasy” know this? The ultimate aim of Chandrika’s immense sacrifice for the sake of love would be of Chandrika, Ramanan, and their poverty-stricken children, born of the daughter of a wealthy family, sinking in the mire of hardships and disappearing from the world before or after each other.”

“There was one way out, Sush,” I said. “Why couldn’t have she raised the cowherd from his decrepit cottage to the flower-laden mansion?”

“He become her slave?!! Better than that…”

“Slave? Great! How can that be? When she submits to him all that she had and takes him as her Lord and Master, she is the one who becomes the slave, right? Sublime love….”

“Not divine love, possible lust, that was what it was. A sweet attraction. Ramanan’s eye, besides did espy not just Chandrika’s purity of heart and glowing body, but also the abundance of her diamonds? Ramanan’s comparison of status, worry about meeting his beloved, and fear of separation clearly indicates that his love was utterly worldly. In any case, didn’t I say right at the beginning that ordinary people would find it hard to draw a living picture of love against a background that is hollow- that is just a fantasy ?”

“If so, aren’t her parents really the culprits?”

“Yes, there are in the world no others more culpable and selfish than parents – the very icons of selfishness! To make the their children’s enviable social statuses the very aims of their life — what a crime! But what to do, are not parents such undesirable creations in this world?”

Sush’s derogatory tone angered me: “Agreed, I am a fool. But how is Chandrika, who seduced and sent to death a poor chap who knew well his unsuitability and tried to keep a distance, a good woman! He was so virtuous!”

“Look, Santhi, a maiden approaching a man begging for love? Honour is most important to them. Women who cannot declare their love or seek after their lust cannot beg for love either. Chandrika somehow got an inkling about Ramanan’s love for her. The poor child! That caged parrot deluded herself. His swelling love and adoration intoxicated her impassioned heart — emotions that could simply not be wiped away sprouted up there. A young heart, was it not? She felt that she could give up her very life for the youthful goatherd who sang her praises thus. ‘What is there so much for others to blame?’ ‘What can father and mother possibly feel, about their little girl’s abundance of love?’ – she lisps – what can such a little elite maiden know of the world? The Chandrika who silences Ramanan who begins to preach to her about the world by saying ‘I don’t want to listen to this speech’, is she not but a child in the matter of life-experience? In the end her eyes opened only in the tension between Ramanan’s love and her engagement. That uncompromising state of affairs stared at her, who was but helpless, in the face. Either suicide or betrayal of love – both equally strong, equally sinful. In the sudden nervousness, she felt that suicide was better, but she did perceive her duty correctly, in the end. She who had grown up in comfort and indulgence, was simply not strong enough to endure new and endless difficulties. With a heart thrashing about in pain, she bid goodbye to her lover in her mind. Is not the greater sacrifice that of love for duty, and not of duty for love?”

“Indeed, indeed! How magnanimous! Like that Lord Coverly said, you can argue plenty from both sides! But that’s not what surprises me — how is she going to look at her husband’s face, after all this hullaballoo?”

“What does she have to fear? My Santhi, you have seen only the world of men which preaches ideals, is it not? Your poor thing, just walk around, take a good look, understand what is happening! In their dictionary, bachelorhood has never been the synonym of chaste brahmacharya! Those who indulge in wrongs out of their lust should not condemn those who are frivolous at the beginning stage of their mental development, if they possess the least sense of fairness!”

My scarce good sense advised me to keep silent, given the fact that my knowledge was extremely limited and entirely reliant on books. Sush continued: “In any case, what did Ramanan’s sincere friend, the one who kept declaring, ‘are you not my life?’ and so on, what did he do? Like Chandrika, Madanan too kept egging Ramanan on in the matter of love. That raised Ramanana temporarily to a state of ecstasy that was beyond worry and precaution. But it turned him mad and led him to suicide at the news of Chandrika’s wedding.Santhi, the stern truth is that Ramanan was killed by the ‘two endearing stars of the sky of [his] life.’ What dangerous folly it was for Madanan who had roused the fire of Ramanan’s desire by telling him that ‘what a terrible sin it is to refuse this pure-hearted gift of love’, just when Ramanan was trying to curb his craving for Chandrika, quite wisely? Did not his love have the effect of enemity? The same Madanan who said that if only Ramanan would confide in him, he would mortgage his very life’ and also advice Ramanan that he should not let his life waste away ‘for a mere woman’ — what does he do in the end? Instead of strengthening his weak-willed friend by his presence and consolation and stopping him from making tragic moves, he takes it out at fate, saying, ‘why did you make me a witness to this gaol of sorrow?’ , then trembles, ‘what will I do, what will I do!’, and finally in his dearest friend’s moment of great danger, closed his eyes, proclaiming that ‘I cannot bear to see!’ What a despicable, laughable reward for Ramanan’s sincere affection! The true friend is not he who withdraws from the weakness of love in the face of danger, but he who will offer courageous aid.

Sushama fell silent. I could not find argument to support my stand, so I too was silent. I was surprised by the eloquence of Sushama who was rather known to be taciturn. She broke the silence again. “How can Chandrika be held responsible for the weakness that laid around Ramanan’s neck the fatal noose, a weakness that was of his own heart?” Did not he decide, after having tried many times to get past frivolous desire, to leave that fantastic world of desire, and failed, to end the act with one of shedding his own blood. Ramanan who had advised Chandrika to think well and if she found it harmful, to throw that love into ‘the wilderness of forgetfulness’, could he not take comfort in the fact that Chandrika had merely taken his advice and accepted the bridegroom that her father had found her? Why did Ramanan who knew well of the ways of the world, allow the undesirable, disallowed, pointless desire to thrive and grow?”

“My Sush, are not human beings incomplete? Even the incarnations of God are flawed! It is entirely wrong to say that Ramanan had no purity of ideals.” I felt that my words lacked the strength of conviction but still continued. If Ramanan was only like any other man in this world, then would he not have caused the flighty Chandrika social shame? She was the one blinded by lust!”

“Chhe! You mean by the intoxication of love! Santhi, bodily desire is not something that arises in a girl’s body on her own. It is something that is awakened by constant male presence and influence, and which grows in time – you would know if you thought about it well. But I will not say that Ramanan’s idealism and self-control were not admirable. My effort has to reduce the faults heaped upon Chandrika in a depiction that makes readers see all responsibility of the tragedy as essentially hers – to show that these faults are less than this from that very depiction. If not for the force of social law, Chandrika would have remained the heavenly river of pure love. And even if Ramanan did manage to achieve his desire, what insult would have befallen Chandrika from that?”

I asked, rather surprised: “How come?”

The Autobiography of Anna Chandy – Part 3 Continued

[The next part of this chapter is of the many congratulatory letters that senior lawyers — the Advocate General K V Surianarayana Iyer and Taikad N Subramonia Iyer- published, and felicitatory reports in the Kerala Law Times]

Continue reading “The Autobiography of Anna Chandy – Part 3 Continued”

The Autobiography of Anna Chandy — Part 3 Continued

A High Court Judge

I was the District Judge at Kozhikode when I was appointed High Court Judge. The appointment came when I was 54; with just one more year for retirement as District Judge. By then, my desire to enter the High Court had more or less died down. But Mr Chandy’s scolding began. Because he was now retired and living with me in Kozhikode, he had ample opportunity too. “Do you know see what happened from jumping to take the Munsiff’s post, not paying attention to my warning that you will end up old and grey and won’t be able to enter the High Court?” He kept pestering me thus.

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The Autobiography of Anna Chandy — Part 3 – Continued

The District Judge is the Defendant!

When I was the Ernakulam District Judge, there was an incident and I had to climb the witness box and suffer a sentence. Except for the few months when my son stayed with me, I was a resident of the Ernakulam YWCA hostel. The YWCA president was the Chief Justice K T Koshy’s wife. That was the time when  subscriptions were being raised to build a new wing of the YWCA hostel. It was decided that a performance should be organized to raise money for the new building. I suggested that women in the legal field should stage a court room scene. And so a play was written. The matron of the YWCA (chedathy) was the real inspiration behind it. She knew a handful of English words, just a fistful, like enough mustard to temper. She would use them correctly or otherwise whenever she could, without much grasp of their meaning.

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The Autobiography of Anna Chandy — Part 3

The Nagercoil Munsiff: In a Hurry to Become ‘Your Honour’

My participation in the dramatics at the VJT Hall in connection with the Sri Chithira Tirunal Library’s anniversary celebrations brought me the special goodwill and affection of the Queen Mother. Before six months passed, I was summoned to the palace and she asked if I would accept a Munsiff’s post if offered. Without thinking of the pros and cons, I said that I would be happy to accept it.

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The Autobiography of Anna Chandy — Part 2 –Continued

In the Legislative Assembly

The nominated members were often derided as mere kaipokkikal –aye-sayers. But during my term in the Assembly (from ME 1106 – 1108) [1930-32], I made a conscious effort to prove myself to be much more than just an aye-sayer.  Let me give you an example. According to the eleventh section of the Travancore Municipal Regulation (the Fifth Regulation of 1095), women, along with people with mental instability, people who cannot see and hear, and leprosy patients, were excluded from membership in Municipal Councils.

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The Autobiography of Anna Chandy Part II — Continued

The Son Shot the Father: Who Won? Who Lost?

After the favourable verdict in the Pottal case, I began to receive many offers to fight murder cases. I will not describe all of those here. Still, I will end this narration of my career as a lawyer after giving you an account of a case that caused a sensation in Travancore those days, which was fought at the Paravur Sessions Court — the Kaloor murder case.

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The Autobiography of Anna Chandy Part II — Continued

The Pottal Murder Case

I have already mentioned earlier the infamous Pottal murder case that I fought in the Nagercoil Sessions Court some time after I had registered at the Travancore High Court. There were six persons accused in that case. The first accused was a major landlord and the father of a police inspector, Thankaswami Nadar. The rest were his dependents.

Continue reading “The Autobiography of Anna Chandy Part II — Continued”

The Autobiography of Anna Chandy Part II — Continued

My First Criminal Case

Let me also tell you of the first criminal case I argued. It was a state brief — that is, when an accused is too poor to hire a lawyer in defense, then the government arranges for one. The fees one was paid for such a case those days was Rs 50. Judges used to keep aside such cases to encourage young lawyers. The case I got was of IPC 304 (A), that is, distracted and irresponsible driving leading to death. My husband was keen that I argue this well and gain a victory, and the fame from it, so he taught me all the aspects carefully. The place of the accident was a bend in the road at Changanassery.

Continue reading “The Autobiography of Anna Chandy Part II — Continued”