Keshavamurthy is a writer of repute, living with his wife Sujatha and his son in Warangal. He works as a teacher in the nearby school, and writer novels of critical acclaim. Any normal life has to have a twist, and thus a story to retell. It comes in the form of a telegram from one of their acquaint stating the critical illness of Sujatha's foster father 'Pandita Parameswara Sastry'. Sujatha, starts at once, to be with her ailing father, despite his disapproval of her marriage to Keshavamurthy. Sujatha was abandoned at birth by her mother, in front of a school and was brought up by the school attendant until she was discovered by childless Pandita Parameswara Sastry, who then taken charge of bringing the lady up in his household ( later we realise that she was his illegitimate child). When she decided to get married to Keshavamurthy, a writer and man of intellect, but who belongs to a lower caste, Sastry vehemently opposed to the marriage. The couple however decided to go ahead and get married and started living on their own. Sastry had never spoken to his foster daughter ever since, and refused to acknowledge them.
The fame and status of Keshavamurthy had created a group of jealous writers. It was known to us ( through multiple repetitive anecdotes) that all of them at one point or other had been the beneficiary of the favour from Keshavamurthy. Too, filmy and too good to believe Keshavamurthy, continued to help and support those who betrayed him and worked behind his back for the downfall of him. Many a pages were devoted to the good deeds of Keshavamurthy and the misdeeds from those co writers, who never been able to come to terms with the growing popularity of Keshavamurthy.
The coterie worked in injecting the venom of hatred even in the mind of Sastry, or so we were to believe. As the end of Sastry neared, they worked with him to prevent the inheritance from going to his daughter and thus to Keshavamurthy. They, under the pretext of opening a Sanskrit School bearing the name of Sastry, wanted to hive off those money to their personal benefit. Making them believe that he is towing their line, Pandita Parameswara Sastry, had other plans.
That summarises the book in its story. However, Gopichand, uses his narrative techniques and voices to a great effect to bring out a fairly good novel. Since I couldn't read the original version in Telugu, I had to depend on the translated version. Somehow, I get a feeling that a great deal of its original fragrance and strength seems to have lost somewhere in translation. The impact and effect of the Telugu version, should have been greater, going by the recognition it received in terms of Sahitya Akademy award in 1963 a year after its publication.
Even in the translated version, one can get the glimpse of a strong writing of the solid social undercurrent. The politics of caste and sect, the influence of the communist and liberal thoughts and the strong philosophical stream mingled through out the book is noticeable. Despite being felt as an add-on , the Aurobindo Ashram and the pages discussing the philosophy of Aurobindo was impressive. The balancing act of spirituality and communist thinking, its non- contradicting existence in the thoughts of Keshavamurthy is one aspect I see the author dealt beautifully.
The rivalry among writers ( or people among same profession competing for the limited attention of the readers/listeners or audience) is not uncommon. Gopichand, takes a dig at his own profession exposing some of the obscene and often cruel tactics to demean the fellow writer. The malign include financial accusation, extra marital affairs, anonymous letters, yellow press, direct confrontation and similar methods are deployed by his foes. Keshavamurty though affected by these puts up a brave front even when his wife has a moment of distrust and an act of stupidity ( in her own admittance).
It is a good book to read, may be profound one if you are a Telugu reader. The story per se, is too filmy and ends in the typical triumph of truth over evil. But it is the connecting aspects of narration, voice and the philosophical aspect gives it the weight to be considered as a major work in Telugu Language.
Pandita Parameswara Sastry's Will (1962)
Tripuraneni Gopichand ( translated from Telugu by Uma Alladi and M. Sridhar 2010)
The Hindu, Tagoremarg