Saturday, May 14, 2011

Francis Ittykkora- T D Ramakrishnan

A meeting ofDavinci code and Umberto Eco in Malayalam is the first impression one is left with while reading this novel by T D Ramakrishnan. Using medieval history as the base for his theme, Ramakrishnan does a good job in keeping the central theme intact, while exploring the other aspects of modern life across continents and culture. The underground organisations, the prevalence of cannibalism, casual and free for all sex and the business around the same, alcoholism, cruelty, all that is needed to spice up the novel is added generously. However, that is not the point in the novel. These diversions and need to poke your tickle bone do not really do justice to the main aspect of the book.
Francis Itty cora a 15th century Trader from Kunnamkulam, in Kerala, and his expeditions and adventures are the main theme. The descendants of Cora, caled as the "18 family sect" is believed to be active even now, living in a secret life, controlling large number of business and and power. This closed knit group with their own set of customs and rituals supposedly following the gospel of Itty Cora ( which includes offering the 'grown up' girl to Cora on the Christmas Eve, donating 10% of all the profits etc), a rejection of which brings the curse of the spirit of Cora and the eventual doom for the family.

Three ladies, running a 'massage centre' ( called "The School") in Cochin attracting rich foreign clients offering 'all they need' receives a mail one day from Francis Itty Cora, wanting to rediscover his manhood, which he claims to have lost after raping an Iraqi girl while serving the US Army. Cora, claiming to be a descendant of the iconic Francis Itty Cora of the 15th century ( his mother tells him before she was killed ). He realise that the chain is too long and the family is spread all over the world. From the hills of Peru to Australia, from US to Italy apart from the origin in Kerala. Francis Itty Cora also known as a brilliant mathematician ( the banned on the Hypetian school of Mathematics), and often cited as the founder of 'Kerala School of Mathematics". The novel then set to explore the various sects and the life of Francis Itty Cora, through the journals, old manuscripts, the abandoned research papers of historians , mathematicians and through the words of some of the old living people in an around Kunnamkulam and blog entries of a mathematics researcher. As the team of ladies and their friends ( the writer included) goes through the life of the legend, there are forces working against their intention and trying to scuttle their efforts. They are attacked, they were threatened and was prevented access to many details. However, the urge to understand the person and the sect is so strong now, the team decided to do their clandestine mission.

The book is a result of a lot of research and hardwork and that is reflected. Ramakrishnan does a god job in mixing the myth, history, trade and mathematics to a good effect. The novel is a fast read and he is able to capture the attention of the reader till the very end. Few technical errors notwithstanding , the style and content is good and easy to read. However, the narration vary from being brilliant at the chapters on mathematics and history to being mediocre and pedestrian at many other places. Some of the pages around the school and its activities are of very poor writing. The book had received huge acclaim while it was published in the periodical and post releasing as a book. May be this is the first attempt in Malayalam to break free from the traditional format of the fiction writing. On that part, it is a welcome change and is commendable. However, it is still not "original" and one get reminded of Davinci Code, while he trying to be an Umberto Eco.
Francis Ittykkora ( 2009 )

T D Ramakrishnan

D C Books

308 Pages

Rs 160
Some reviews : Samakalika Malayalam , Mathrubhoomi , Varthamanam, Ratheesh

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