Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Samskara-A Rite for A Dead Man


I finished reading this novel (Oxford, Rs 195, 138 pages) a couple of days back and have been immensely impressed with the work. This book by U.R. Anantha Murathy is in Kannada and a gripping translation by A.K. Ramanujan has brought it to the non-Kannada readers.

Written in the 60’s, it is a short novel about a figuratively and literally decaying Brahmin system represented through a Brahmin colony. It gets abandoned after a bohemian Brahmin, Naranappa dies of plague and is refused a proper cremation because he had been living with a prostitute, and had been enjoying pleasures of life and eating meat etc. The ‘leaders’ of the traditional system of religion are unable to decide about what to do to the body which decays overnight. Their dilemma arises from the fact that Naranappa had not yet been excommunicated due to his misdeeds, so he was technically still a Brahmin. They are undecided if he should be or should not be accorded a Brahmin cremation. Naranappa’s woman Chandri, ironically seeks the help of a Muslim cartman and cremates Naranappa unceremoniously because of the rising stench.

The death and later the avarice of the community leaders (men all) exposes the real selves of the so-called twice born pure segment of the society.

Samskara literally means a rite for passage or life cycle ceremony. The other meanings of this word are ‘realizing of past perceptions, preparation, making ready’ etc. The main acharya, Pranesacharya who has tried his best to earlier redeem Naranappa’s life and soul by sermonizing, finds himself in the arms of Chandri and gives in to lust because he has never known this aspect of physical pleasure. He feels that he has lost the right to judge Naranappa and accepts that he had, on purpose and to attain salvation, married an invalid woman who in the entire novel sounded more on a vegetable existence to me. He bathes her; he feeds her-almost like a child. Though he tries to attain penance by serving her, he fails miserably. She falls prey to plague and he leaves home in search of his own self, his honesty, his salvation. On the way he meets a low caste happy go lucky youth Putta who shows him the real path of life.

In all, it was a gripping read. I admit that I had been avoiding reading it because of an unattractive title but an hour long discourse on the various aspects of this novel by my esteemed Supervisor resulted in me crazily looking for this novel.

I am glad I found it and read it.

18 comments:

Sidhusaaheb said...

Hum nahi changay, buraa nahi koye

:)

Pinku said...

you have me hooked....putting it on top of my must read list.

kiran said...

sensitive topic but lucidly summed up...interesting storyline relevant even today..

Monika said...

good review will try and pick it up

Manasa said...

Nice review :)

This book was award-winning film in 1970.. Have seen the movie not read the book yet :)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066324/

Gazal said...

will pick it up for sure

Indian Home Maker said...

I wish it wasn't relevant today, we could say, gosh those were such terrible times! Adding this to my must read list :)

Ritu said...

Interesting. The topic is so relevant today - the world is becoming so intolerant. Must read it

Rajindarjit said...

A different aspect posted here is appreciable.

However last rites means to the living beings only to save their faces in society where they live.

Dead body of a human being is above all rites.

Novel in question is a worth reading fiction.

Dhindsa

Salil said...

Interesting plot. Not sure if I will ever read it, but I loved the dilemma created over the technicalities of the cremation.
Thanks for bringing it to our notice.
Cheers,

Oreen said...

hmm, i remember you told me about this book...
your description is beautiful...

zirelda said...

I love reading recommendations. :)

Thanks. I'll see what I can find.

EXSENO said...

It sounds like a good read.

Mampi, if you could vote for the US President. Do you have an opinion on who you would vote for. Why don't you come back to my blog and tell who you would like to be the next President.

churningthewordmill.wordpress.com said...

i like reading about history n culture...n how society has changed over time..so this may nt be a bad book to pick up..but yeah, could hv done wth a better title!
mandira

Imp's Mom said...

will definitely read this book.

Vidya said...

And we demand more book reviews..

Have read the book and watched the movie. The movie moves extremely slowly and does needs a lot of patience.

Mama - Mia said...

very interestin sounding book...

my list keeps growing!

cheers!

abha

shaaaks said...

yes, it is of interest.
Shaaaks!