Eri is a novel written by Pradeepan Pampirikkunnu and published posthumously in 2017. Eri, the character represents the historically downtrodden people in the Parayan community in Kerala. Pradeepan Pampirikkunnu uses the medium of the novel to establish the prehistory of the Parayan Caste. The narrator of the story is a research scholar, who uses memories, memoirs, oral histories, ritualistic performances, gossips, books, and other oral/literary sources. The novel attempts to historicize the making of a Paraya community in its transit to modernity and retells the renaissance of Kerala from a Paraya male perspective.
Recovery of the history of Eri is important to the narrator because he was impressed as a subaltern linguist by the legend of Eri. However, from the accounts given to him by his father, he is convinced that an unbiased account of the community to which Eri belonged is unavailable. For example, the narrator’s father pictures Eri to be clean in his appearance. The father tells his son that Eri wears a white dress, indicating purity and cleanliness, which is a symbol of upper caste sensibility. According to his father, a rudraksha chain was around his neck. The house in which he lived was a hut, clean and mud-plastered. It was situated on the slope of the Kannambath temple. All such data are coloured by elements of mainstream standardization.
Eri has an inter-caste identity. He is born to a Parayan father and a Malayan mother. Eri lived during the time of the narrator’s father’s father. The text starts with a story narrated by his father about Chaliyan Raman’s confrontation with Eri. From this story, we learn that Eri is a mysterious figure. It is also evident that Eri does not care about the barrier of caste to help others. This view is contradictory to what happens with Antharjanam who seeks Eri’s help to run away from the clutches of her community.
Eri was an educated man. He was educated in the Sanskrit language. In Kurumbranad, a parallel system of education existed several years ago. In those days, some schools taught writing in the sand. There were Ezhuthassanmaar who travelled from one place to another and taught writing. They stayed in a place and taught Amaram (Amarakosham), Kavyam (Manipravalakavyangal), Enjuvadi, etc. to the children there. For the people of the Malaya caste, Mahabharatham was more important. The tales of Mahabharatham may be seen incorporated in their various traditional Prakkal, Theerkkal rituals like Ennamanthram, Tholuzhiya, etc. such a parallel tradition of education existed in Kurumbranad.
Another instance where the character of Eri is established is in the third section of the text. Contrary to what is expected from the myth of pulappedi, Eri appears to be a helpless human being. Eri stands outside of Antharjanam's house after being invited by her to help her escape the clutches of her existence. She is only twenty and her husband, who was sixty, had just passed away. She implores Eri to help her in God’s name. He rejects her by telling her that he lives his life with a sense of justice and God has no role in it. It can be seen that Eri does not accept the notion of an upper-caste god. He states that it is impossible to live together without love.
Eri explains that the anguish suffered by the Parayan community is the reality of his abode. He asks her forgiveness before leaving her there. This response from Eri is in stark contrast with the propaganda spread by the upper caste about the people of the downtrodden communities.
The exploration of the narrator, therefore, does not take established methods of research. He does not use the traditional research methodology to unearth the realities of caste in Kerala. The author attempts to establish the prehistory that defies the standardized notions of objective value. The subjective reality of self-implicating research is evident in the work.