Some 2-3 years back I saw and was mesmerized by this Malayalam movie "Ishtam" which advocated the marriage of widowers at 60's because they also need a soul for companionship. It was about a son engaging a marriage for his father and ended with the occasion. I hope that marriage was successful. But when a marriage at 60 with a beautiful 25 is for cooking and pampering egoistic pride alone, what will be the outcome is something I read at this fantastic novel called "Maya Nadhikal". Written by Stella Bruce (A Tamil writer) and touted as his best ever, this lives upto its eulogies.
Ulaganathan, a wealthy widower commanding respect in his village Senthurai, wants to lead a life satiating his appetite for good food, beautiful wife and pride. His priority in getting married was to a young girl so that he can show off to the world, get nice food. He gets married to Parameshwari, 25, from a poor family. The world couldn't see them as husband and wife, when Ulaganathan faces this harsh fact he is shattered. His inferiority complex takes over, curtails every small wishes of her and in turn gets alienated. Arrival of young, city bred Achuthan fuels the fire and unfortunately he also falls in love with Parameshwari.
In my point of view I would say it is a psychological thriller. Every moment the mental stability of Ulaganathan is getting eroded and it keeps you looking forward for what is going to happen next. It beautifully illustrates the insecurity of a complex widower when getting married to a young girl. The novel unfolds from the Ulaganathan's point of view and follows the same till the Parameshwari's character starts making strides. The success of the characterisation is that you could find the character graph going consistent. There is nothing happening all of a sudden without any proper justifications.
The characterisation of Ulaganathan deserves a special mention. Almost till half of the novel, he is the only character moving on in the novel, with most of the dialogues in soliloquy, yet there is no sign of fatigue on the readers. This needs a master control over the language style. Even his brought up & the instances that moulded his personality were discussed finely that helps in understanding his psychology. It opens with the amorous looks shared by Ulaganathan & young widow Sivamathi, which hints like this turning out to be a lurid affair. The series of interesting events unfold in contributing the marriage plans are well depicted. The smooth transition between the pride of the marriage turning into insecurity and then blossoming into hatred is well depicted.
The reason why Parameshwari accepts for the marriage and her family backdrop is well etched that you will empathise with her fully. But when she gets involved in extra marital affair with Achuthan, the reasons stated are not strong enough. Of course this helps in consolidating the Ulaganathan's character only.
The fluent use of Tirunelveli slang adds authenticity to the nativity. Stella Bruce succeeds in creating the suitable ambience. The description about the small village Senthurai is not only beautiful but amalgamates the loneliness the characters undergo. The village becomes a character itself.
I hope Stella Bruce didn't try to discourage widowers marrying at the later age, but he clearly elucidates the problems when that marriage is not for companionship. Towards the end is the real twist that moves you but I couldn't approve the parallel end. May be I am conservative still in my heart, I couldn't gel with that ending.
Coming to the title, I feel it is one of the most appropriate titles because the story is about two headstrong individuals getting drowned in the marital flood. All the rivers start at the small point and grow in volume just like the small difference gets blown in magnitude to the extent of breaking the marital bliss.
I really feel I am not doing justice to this outstanding novel by this mediocre review, but I recommend you all to read it and I am sure you'll get worth of the money you spent. This is surely the best of Stella Bruce, I had ever read and will linger in your mind for a long. I learnt that it was written as a series in "Anandha Vikatan" and was highly successful at that time. I feel audiences would have looked forward eagerly for the next issue every week.
Author: Stella Bruce.
Publisher: Visa Publications, 16, Venkatnarayana Road, Chennai.
Price: Rs. 52/-