Sunday, December 30, 2012

The depth of darkness and The trembling void of light


About two days back, I started a collection of short stories by M. Gopalakrishnan, Munimedu [link]. The first story of this collection, 'Night' is in my mind for now.

The story is simple enough. There are three people, a mother and her two sons. One of the sons is in a paralysed state and his younger brother takes care of him. Reading the story, which is narrated from the point of view of the paralysed brother, you get to feel that this man is the centre of the story, not only his own but also that of his mother and brother. Narrative wise, this is a good choice, because that paralysed person is self-centred and hates to be left alone.

And left well alone he will be because this story is set on the night of the nuptials of the younger brother. The young man is in the closed room with his wife, and the paralysed man, Thirumalai, sent to sleep out of his room on a raised platform (Thinnai), can't sleep. He forces his mother and brother to attend upon him with his incessant coughing and complaints of breathlessness. The story ends, not with recriminations or any moral judgments, because everyone knows what it happening here, but with the understanding of the inevitable withdrawal of love and its reapportionment that the marriage is meant for.

This is a brilliant story and I am not doing justice to it with my notes. The authorial voice is totally absent; the story starts with the brother outside his home; he calls his mother and then his brother. The mother knows what is happening here, but the brother, Ganesan, doesn't, and his nobility which shines all through the story, makes a good contrast for the dark and damned end to it. I translate it here, without giving anything away:

"Ammakizhavi turned away slowly. Wiping away her tears with the back of her hand, she glanced at Ganesan. She could not see his face clearly, it was dark with the fallen shadows of the lamp. Ganesan's face was motionless with the depth of darkness and the trembling void of light. A great terror gathered itself and welled up her stomach."

M. Gopalakrishnan is a poet and you can sense it in 'the depth of darkness and the trembling void of light'. We seldom think of it, the two being the same to most of us. But darkness is definitely deep, and the absence of light not so - it is more like a glimmer, like the unseen ripples of a lake on a dark night - its insistent and not so silent movement hints at darker things underneath.

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