“The naked figure was cut clean at the throat, as if he were a sacrificial chicken at the consummation of a Gulikan dance ritual.” __ Dr. P. V. Jayaraj, Monsoons in Malabar.
Monsoons in Malabar is the first novel by Dr. P. V Jayaraj, Associate Professor of English, and Head of the Department at a reputed college in Kannur, Kerala. The social, cultural, and political landscape of Malabar has not been explored significantly in long fiction let alone in English long fiction written by Indian authors. Monsoons in Malabar is the first Indian English novel to explore the history and society of North Malabar.
The author is from Malabar, and knows the nuances of the landscape. This offers a precisely wrought well-plotted novel for those who would like to know and learn more about Malabar. My interest in reading Monsoons in Malabar took sky hype as I realized how valuable this reading experience could be for my own understanding of the territory. My first trilogy of short story collections titled Hope, Vengeance, and History trilogy derives inspiration and material from Cannanore, a half-imagine and half-real city and Salode, a dreamed up small town in North Malabar, situated east of Cannanore.
Ravi Shanker IPS is the protagonist of Monsoons in Malabar, who is apparently, in a “walking back” through memory lane. His memory is inextricably woven with Malabar, especially North Malabar. Kalloor, its people and nature enchant the readers in this commendable achievement By Dr. Jayaraj. Past and present come together in a nostalgic dance and the Monsoon season plays an important part in this book. It is during one Monsoon that Ravi returns his homeland from the hectic and distant life beyond the Coorg, in Karanataka. Unnielayachan is another impressive character, whose life is made meaningful by alcohol and sex.
Through his walk in the memory lane, Ravi Shanker’s sole purpose, it seemed, was to reconnect with his uncle. It is evident that the affection Ravi Shanker feels for his uncle as a young boy is at the centre of his return trip to old and dusty memories.
I often pray at the shrine of St. Teresa, in Mahe, Pondicherry, for uncluttered flow of words. Because, as a writer, words form the basis of my being. Where do words come from? From the all-encompassing loving spirit of God? Where else? Memories are, on the contrary, dependent on what dimension of existence we are participating. For an earthly dimension of existence, they are worldly, painfully distant, and occasionally soothing and warm. It’s a stunning scenery when a novel becomes such a grand-scale alchemy as the meeting of words and memory—the heavenly and the worldly. Dr. Jayaraj’s Monsoons in Malabar is a very impressive specimen of this kind.
This novel leads readers through some of the rarely existent and age-old customs of Malabar such as Gulikan and legends such as Kuttichathan. Shekhu Vaidyar’s Dhanvantari Ayurvedic Soap and the CID Sanyasi become everlasting and green fabric of memory left behind in our mind in this Malabar caricature.