Weekend Reading

Recollections of books carried back and forth on the elevated train -- in a long-term, though belated, attempt to learn something about the world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

JAYAKANTHAN : A Man, A House, A World

This is a curious story.  It's not driven by a dramatic conflict -- but the consequences of dramas are everywhere.

An unusually gentle, spaced-out young man  returns to the village that his adopted father
had left thirty years before to claim the family home.  His father's younger brother has been taking care of his older brother's property - but has left the home untouched, allowing it to disintegrate in the tropical environment.  He does not want to disrespectfully act as if his brother would never return. He is more than happy that a nephew has appeared to restore it.

All of the story's  drama happened in the past -- when the older brother's  wife ran off with a low-caste barber -- and the older brother himself ran away to avoid disgracing his family name.  He had been a very successful young agri-business man -- but his life is out-of-whack ever after.  He joins the army - and later works for the railway.  He never remarries - but co-habits with the Anglo  widow of his best army friend with whom a adopts an abandoned infant.  The infant is given an English name, Henry, and he will grow up to become the gentle fellow at the center of the story.

Tangentially, other stories streak past, like comets across the sky.  Henry meets a neighbor, a young school teacher, whose wife recently left him.  She would not accept the dominant role that her husband's older sister played in the household. (both parents in the family had suddenly died and the older sister had effectively acted as his mother). Henry also meets a  young woman who wears no clothes and does not talk.  He names her "baby" and takes her home where his neighbors clothe, feed, and care for her. And Henry also meets the village elder who approves his claim on his adoptive father's home, and who later is arrested for intoxication.  Deeply ashamed, he hangs himself.