Earth, water, sunlight and sweat made the seed sprout. A seed entrusted to the earth sprouted. That truth was simple enough. The farmer anchored his life on that truth and made it yield a hundredfold harvest. All that Dinakaran ever wanted, and all that he ever knew, was to be a farmer.
But that was not to be. Aathi, his beloved land, was destined for a different antham. It had to yield more than fish and rice. It had to succumb to Kumaran's dream. The Kumaran who shunned the old ways to make money in the city, and returned to turn his poor, pristine motherland into a jungle of concrete and profits.
He started with Thampuran, the god who guarded the backwaters and its simple life. Thampuran's thatched shrine was turned into an edifice of gold. Its glitz blinded young men who saw a life beyond farming and fishing.
The community was divided. Ponmani was incensed, he wanted to fight. Kayal, who fled the trauma of the city to carve a new life for her daughter, felt sorrow descending on them again. Karthiyani, betrayed by Kumaran many years back, felt her shame and pain harden into a futile resolve - she will protect her Aathi. But Dinakaran knew violence wasn't the answer.
What could they do? Will the world out there come to this sludge and swamp? And hear the cries and lamentations of the earth?
Kumaran had the law on his side. And the money. He had the means to turn hapless farmers out of their land, sell them the dream of a concrete house and a high paying job. They waged a war with their conscience, their family, their way of life. They won. And lost all. 'The triumphal march in the wake of war is also, in a sense, a funeral procession.'
Aaathi was turned into a sewage dump. Those who protested faced hunger, police lathis, disappointment and death. 'Darkness began to roost, clawing the fetid garbage, the putrefaction and the greed that shrouded the stifled face of the water. Sorrow smoldered in his heart.' Thampuran, sitting in his golden cage couldn't save them. Kumaran had stolen even their god.
This is the story of Aathi. Its like a long soulful poem that reflects the beauty and anguish of people. One of the most evocative accounts of a contemporary issue written by award winning Malayali author and social activist Sarah Joseph. The English translation was done by Valson Thampu.
Book Name: Gift In Green; Author: Sarah Joseph; Translated by: Valson Thampu; Price: Rs 350; Pages: 384; Publisher: HarperCollins
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