About the Book
Kerala, one of the smallest states in India, is located in the country's southwest corner. Known for its great beauty, religious diversity, and zero population growth, the region also boasts an exceptionally high literacy rate -- reportedly above 95 percent -- resulting in a large readership for books, journals, and newspapers. The quality of Kerala's literary production is very high, and this anthology represents some of its best short stories.
According to Modern Language Notes, "Translators…give English readers the world."
In keeping with that statement, Daughters of Kerala
attempts to share with the reader the life of a people in a small state in India. With only about 32 million people. It is home to less than 3% of India's population. Spanning seven decades, the selection was meant to highlight the struggles and triumphs of Kerala women.
Though educated and enterprising, women from this area face the same problems as women the world over. The stories in this collection explore their lives, giving readers everywhere a greater understanding of what it means to be a daughter of Kerala.
"One of the great strengths of this anthology comes from the variety of voices that are featured in these stories."
— Marie Varghese
Daughters of Kerala
is about Everywoman in Kerala. In her review of the book, writer Marie Varghese said, "One of the great strengths of this anthology comes from the variety of voices that are featured in these stories."The stories represent the experiences of women from a variety of economic and educational backgrounds and marital status, offering fascinating insights into the intersections of women's roles in relation to social class.
The earlier stories –In the Shroud and Underling
– seem unreal
today because they illustrate the ways in which women were subjugated.
After reaching puberty a woman was not to see or be seen by any man other
than her husband. At the same time, men could have as many wives as they
could support. A man of sixty taking a young woman of twenty as his third
or fourth wife was not uncommon. The tragic part is what the women believed.
They considered their husbands almost as their God and did everything
they demanded. "He may be old and ugly. But he is her husband, her God
for this life. Then why doesn't she love him and worship him?" Lalithambika
Antharjanam asks in In the Shroud
As with India's political climate, the beginning of change in women's
thinking can be seen as early as 1948 in Female Intellect
15 years before Feminine Mystique was published. The smart, young Vilasini
could not understand why she couldn't have an intellectual relationship
with a man, a relationship above their sexual difference. Her friend Vijayalakshmi
had figured out the problem and she said:" Tradition, circumstances, social
customs, and nature's secrets have gotten together and the woman's brain
has to surrender before all these… a sharp intellect that helps men to
grow and rise up in their profession is not only unnecessary but also
a nuisance to women."(p.28)
Stories written in the 80's and 90's have very different themes. In A Rest House for Travelers, Rosemary, The Lullaby of Dreams, Ghare Baire, Riddles in Life and Arya Reborn
we read about married women dreaming about other men and having affairs and divorce; and college students experimenting with drugs. The sense of right and wrong has changed. Neglected wives whose husbands were too busy to take time for them looked elsewhere for affection and understanding.
The stories about two young wives whose working husbands are away for several years impact the wives in opposite ways (Nerchakkottan
and The Dawn of Enlightenment
)—one goes mad and is found dead, but the other is determined to send her daughter to school so that she can learn to read and write and not depend on the mailman to read the letters from her husband and write her response to him.
There are more —about a ten-year old making a living and supporting his sick mother by transporting people from one side of a lake to the other in a row boat that he inherited from his father (The Devil's Jacket
); how two women work hard rather than go for handouts (One Still Picture Cannot Capture a Life's Story and Wooden Dolls
), how some nuns in a retirement home save the lives of a mother and her young son from the hands of the mob after the assassination of Indira Gandhi (When Big Trees Fall
), and other stories. They are all touching stories. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed translating them.
Co author with R.E.Asher - Me Grandad 'ad an Elephant
Three stories of Muslim life in South India by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer.
- P.Kesavadev's "Odayil Ninnu" (From the Gutter)
Get in Touch
Any questions, comments,or concerns?
Feel free to email Achamma.
About the Author
Achamma C. Chandersekaran has been active in many areas. She was a teacher in India and even to this day, after 50 years, when she goes back to her village, her former students greet their "Achamma Teacher" with respect and affection.
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"The collection provides a touching chronicle of the contexts of women's experiences, frustrations, and struggles in the changing social order of that exciting part of India.
- Braj Kachru
"Daughters of Kerala
" is a marvellous collection of first-rate stories, skillfully translated by Achamma Chandersekaran, which marks a Welcome addition to the English-speaking world's Appreciation of Malayalam Literature.
- Shashi Tharoor