Storyteller

The Red River Named Kanthapura

Book Review
Gather around, the storyteller is here.
[Source – Pixabay]

“There is no village in Inida, however mean, that had not a rich sthalapurana, or legendary history, of its own. Some god or godlike hero has passed by the village – Rama might have rested under this papal tree, Sita might have dried her clothes, after her bath, on this yellow stone, or the Mahatma himself, on one of his many pilgrimages through the country, might have slept in this hut, the low one, by the village gate. In this way the past mingles with the present, and the gods mingle with men to make the repertory of your grandmother always bright…”

Author’s Foreword, Kanthapura, Raja Rao

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Kanthapura is a 1938 novel by the wonderful, most eloquent writer, Raja Rao – one of the finest amongst the Indian English novelists.

The novel shares the ‘Katha’ (traditional Indian style of storytelling) of a South Indian village, Kanthapura, that rises in tune with the Gandhian movement, imbuing everyone with the colours of Swaraj.

Achakka, an elderly lady, narrates this story as if she is telling a folk epic; passionately she shares, and you dare not disturb her, for she once lived in Kanthapura, high on the Ghats, high up the red hills, where Kenchamma, the goddess, reigns and blesses them all.

Achakka tells before anyone asks the reason behind the red earth – it is all blood that was shed in the battle between Kenchamma and a demon; Kenchamma won.

“Kenchamma, Kenchamma,

Goddess benign and bounteous,

Mother of earth, blood of life,

Harvest-queen, rain-crowned,

Kenchamma, Kenchamma,

Goddess benign and bounteous.”

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“One has to convey in a language that is not one’s own the spirit that is one’s own. One has to convey the various shades and omissions of a certain thought-movement that looks maltreated in an alien language. I use the word ‘alien’, yet English is not really an alien language to us. It is the language of our intellectuall make-up – like Sanskrit and Persian was before – but not of our emotional make-up.”

Author’s Foreword, Kanthapura, Raja Rao

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Writing in the Indianised English Raja Rao’s Kanthapura moves in a serpentine style, meandering boldly to present the Indian thought.

From Achakka, the narrator, to Moorthy the Satyagrahi, to the two widows – Rangamma, the wise, and Ratna, the defiant who was married at 10, to Ramakrishnayya, Patel Range Gowda, Bhatta, the Sahib, Bade Khan, Seenu, the Pariahs, Potters, Weavers, Coolies, children, cattle and strays, together they weave this sthalapurana tying it not to a time and place, yet speaking of a true era.

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“There must be something in the sun of India that makes us rush and tumble and run on. And our paths are paths interminable. The Mahabharata has 214,778 verses and the Ramayana 48,000. The puranas are endless and innumerable. We have neither punctuation nor the treacherous ‘ats’ and ‘ons’ to bother us – we tell one interminable tale. Episode follows episode, and when our thoughts stop our breath stops, and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our storytelling…”

Author’s Foreword, Kanthapura, Raja Rao

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Flowing like a river, the story of Kanthapura, whether consumed mid-way or at any given point, continues to be powerful, calm and vibrant.

The distinctive style/ form of the story is the protagonist as it very straightforwardly propels the story, colouring all the plots, characters, twists and turns, monologues and prayers, speeches and rebukes, songs, celebrations and sufferings alike.

The form glues the novel’s world beautifully, heartily – not one cardamom plant or the fragrant sandalwood forest or the moon eyed gods and goddesses are unaware of what Moorthy discussed with Rangamma and Patel Range Gowda in the secret Congress meeting and what the whispering hearts shared, and what the sari-clad, bare feet, hands-busy-cooking offered their families and the deities.

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Oh goddess, will my wish come true?
[Source – Pixabay]

Everyone and everything moves ahead together like twigs, leaves and swans in a river.

Even the readers become an essential part of this ‘sthalapurana’ because sooner or later they sit down in a humble gathering to tell the others about a tiny village named Kanthapura.


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Moony Clay

Moon’s cloudy carpet.
[Image by Jagriti Rumi]

Now a clear dot… now hazy… mixing with the clouds through and through, then beaming alone gloriously. Splattering moony clay, then rubbing it, greasing with it the deep dark sky.

Mirroring all the romantics and dream-talkers, the moony clay moulds itself to fit into the beholder’s eyes and patient hearts. It listens, nods and registers its reply with the artist.

Moony clay – an assiduous storyteller, slowly moving away – happily builds the wavy waves and like a sand clock shows the slipping time its way.

Singing joyously, dancing leisurely, the moony clay creates and fills the heart with hope, lost in splendour.

See how it re-shapes, re-writes its journey, certain of uncertainty in knowing… in knowing it all. 


Images by Jagriti Rumi


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Together We Enjoy Enjaami

Prose Poem

Kindly listen to the track before you start reading.

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Unabashedly bold and free, vivacious and ebullient, adamant like the silent stone, transforming every micro-second, Nature rules… and the ones living close to it celebrate and sing, enjaaee enjaami

Flowers shining bright, the rich yellow, orange, mahogany, red and white, the bugs, caterpillars and flies, the upside-down dancing struggling beetles, the sun-soaked green leaves, together – even when captured in a glorious painting – sing enjaaee enjaami…

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Rich yellow… shining bright.
[Image by AdelinaZw from Pixabay]

Whose is this land, this divided piece, this circled boundary, that 12 acres, that mango orchid, that dry-wet soil, that cool-cool well, that fragrance casting spell… certainly it doesn’t belong to the ones who toil round-the-clock and sing, enjaaee enjaami…

Festivities when unearthed by bare hands, the swaying harvest and booming lives of the lords, shacky mud-roofed huts full of laughs and cries… all sing enjaaee enjaami…

Grandmas and old voices together have knitted the folktales, passing it with pickles and homemade sweets, carrying it closer than a life lesson, breathing it day and night, walking and singing enjaaee enjaami…

Like a tree, like a giant tree, full of flowers, then fruits and seeds, then sweat and blood, patiently bowing, accepting it all… walks an old bent figure, bare feet, singing enjaaee enjaami…

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Turn around, don’t flee…
[Image by Couleur from Pixabay]

Jackals, parrots, elephants, reptiles, dogs, cats, butterflies… give their share back, turn around, don’t flee… those sitting on margins know Noah and the King, then who will ultimately sink? I sing enjaaee enjaami…

The fiery soul that burns itself, weeding the flower bed and burning the dead, it runs the life, it spins the earth, decorating the darkness, breathing lightly it sings enjaaee enjaami…

So how can you forget, threaten, betray, walk astray…? Come, not in repentance but acceptance for then your blinded eyes will see the majestic drama, lament if you must, cry and shed it before you sing enjaaee enjaamee…

So listen, listen to the storyteller, the old voice-heart beats well, this beat matches your beat and look, your mind watches you sing enjaaee enjaami…


Enjoy/ Enjaaee (my dear mother/ dear lady) Enjaami (my feudal lord, master) Vango Vango Onnagi (come together to reap the bounty of nature).

This wonderfully powerful Tamil song is sung by Dhee and rapper Arivu (who has also written it); the song revolves around Tamil migrants (and labourers and all our ancestors) who toiled on lands but always remained landless and suffered due to poverty; the song emphasises on how the earth, the nature is for all living beings and not for the wealthy class/ caste.

This thought-provoking, globally popular number, asks us blatantly to check if we are hurrying in the right direction.


Decode Enjoy Enjaami, read these articles –

What Arivu’s Enjoy Enjaami Tells Us About the Cultural Resistance to Caste

Enjoy Enjaami a tribute to Tamil plantation labour

Enjoy Enjaami – A welcome start, say Sri Lanka’s Malaiyaha Tamils

Enjoy Enjaami: Deconstructing the Politics Behind Arivu and Dhee’s Latest


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The Moon’s Job

Our Moon Connection.
[Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay]

The Moon’s not shy,

Your winking eye

Knows a secret.

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The Moon’s not singing

Your composition

In a bar.

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The Moon’s not dreaming

Your lovely dream

In the dream-world.

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The Moon’s always only listening

To your stories,

Patiently till the end,

Passing messages at times,

Giving hints

To the storyteller

And the painter…

Messages and hints of love…


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More posts for Moon Lovers –

To The Moon And Back

Moon Colour

Crescent Moon Lights

In Slo-mo Towards the Moon

The Moon is Moving


Weekly Newsletter

A weekly dose of stories! Get the posts from the Chiming Stories in your inbox and read it when you can. Subscribe now, it is free!


Recent Posts