February 09, 2005

Chevathar and Blue Mangoes

I just read The House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar.

The story, starting in a period long before independence (1899) and ending when independent India was born, narrates the life of three generations of Dorai family. It has been told as three sections viz, Chevathar, Doraipuram and Pulimedu.

The first part set in Chevathar, an imaginary village which would fall in the present Tamil Nadu state, takes you through the era when British just came to India, and people began to convert to Christianity to escape caste system and for other economic advantages. The family of the landlord or thalaivar of the village, the Dorais, are among these converted christians. How the change of religion failed to change the mindset of the people is depicted through the thoughts and caste-based customs followed by Solomon Dorai, the baptised thalaivar. The part ends with the death of Solomon Dorai and Father Ashworth - the priest, in a caste war.

The second section is primarily for next generation Dorais Daniel and Aron, by the end of which Daniel becomes a famous Sidha doctor and Aron dies the death of an infamous criminal - for becoming part of an extremist organisation for the cause of independence. The third part is for Kannan aka Thirumoolar, the son of Daniel who becomes (un?)successful by the end of his life!

The first part is pretty much interesting and author has done a nice job in describing Chevathar. Other characters like Charity Dorai-the wife of Solomon, Younger brother of Solomon, Ashworth-the father of village church, vakeel Perumal- a rich man in the village have naturality and their part to play in the story. It would have been better if author had finished the novel with first part, instead of describing next and next generations in the subsequent sections, when there is nothing much innovative in the story line. Instead the story loses the natural touch and becomes more dramatical with instances like Charity Dorai becoming mad, Daniel's effort to take her to some Ashram of occult cure, Daniels India expedition for Mango research, and finally the Will of Daniel which describes how to make gold from his body(?). The third part also is dull except that it is set in Pulimed, a place in the present Kerala state. Again pages have been wasted for (another) story about (stupid?) Kannan hunting a man-eating tiger!

I feel the story could have been told in three books instead of three sections, which would have enabled the author to do more justice to every part and the readers to enjoy it more. Anyways the book is a good read (or good to read), especially(only?) the first part!!