Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tomorrow is One More Day - G Nagarajan

In line with the world literature during 60s, there had been many writings in Indian Languages with their influences. Some of the young writers who started writing during those ages weren't free from those leftist, realistic and existential influences in their writing. G Nagarajan, I understand is one of the proficient writers in Tamil during those years. Tomorrow is One more Day originally written in 1974, has been one revelation to me, thanks to the recommendation from JP.

Kandan is a simpleton, lives his normal life. This short novel takes us through one day in the life of Kandan. His day starts with a beautiful dream of the vision of Goddess. To him she had the features of his mother. Kandan is a small time pimp, an agent or a middleman. The fate hadn't been too good on him. He does not remember his father, his mother died and the small property had was taken from him . He sold it, but was cheated. But, soon he had to go work for the same person, who cheated him. . He now lives in the slums, with his wife. We understand that his son ran away from home, his girl died in the government hospital, after the local remedies and the astrologer failed to save her. However, Kandan is indifferent to his fate and his current conditions and does not carry any ambition in his life.

"What is your goal in life, anne ?", Muttuswamy asked.
"What do you mean" ?
What do you want to achieve in life ?"
Kandan laughed. "What did I want to achieve in life when I happened to be born to Sornattammal ?"

The set up is typical Tamil Nadu village. All the characters you see in the daily walk of life appear in the novel.  As the day begins, he search for few pennies to have his days first fill of Alcohol. Sending his wife on 'duty' ( he does not have any regrets, neither does she), he flirts with the local lady. Their fortune depends on the business done by his wife, and most of the days, they survive by the grace of the local shop keeper. The day progresses through various errands, but happens at an arms length, with Kandan participating with a level of self detachment.  All days are similar to him, with nothing worthwhile happens in his life.  "Wherever you looked there was development; wherever you looked there was a change. Only in his life, it seemed, nothing at all changed."

However, as the day ends, Kandan witnesses a murder, the murder of Solai Pillai, his well wisher.  The reporter/witness now was framed as the murderer. The inability to garner support or the financial difficulties to get a proper legal help gets him into prison. As Kandan tries to explain himself at the court, making himself a laughing stock to the 'educated' in the court room. He was cheated again and was duly sentenced.

The book comes with a detailed introduction by David Shulman, giving us the glimpses of the life and times of the writer. Book is translated by Abbie Ziffren, and for once I found an Indian book with amicable translation into English. Strong influences from the western existentialists and the communist belief ( Nagarajan was a member of the Communist party at the time of this writing) is evident in the writing, as he is called Tamil Camus.

A surrealistic short novel of pathos, indifference and about the marginalised section of the society, people who matters only in the ballot boxes.  Very moving and very touching..
Tomorrow Is One More Day (1974)

G,Nagarajan ( translated from Tamil by Abbie Ziffren with A Julie)

Penguin Books

99 Pages

Rs 199
More read :  Deccan Herald , Jayaprakash

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