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True Perspectives – An introduction (Book Review)

June 13, 2017

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(This was read in the New York Vicharavedhi meeting held on June 11, 2017)

Nandakumar perspective

Dr. Nandakumar Chanayil

Let me thank Vicharavedhi and Mrs. Elcy Yohannan for giving me an opportunity to introduce her book “True Perspectives”. This being the month she was born,let me wish her a Happy Birthday!!

Mrs. Elcy Yohannan is a well-known writer among the American Malayalee literati. Her writings appear in the Malayalam mainstream publications as well as in the American publications of Malayalam. Though Mrs. Yohannan’s forte is in poetry, she is a jack of all genres, including prose, short stories and memoirs. She has published eight Malayalam poetry books, one work of prose and several articles in Malayalam and English. She has received several awards, both from Kerala and USA to her credit.

Now, why did she take pains to translate her own Malayalam publication into English? Well, let me tell the youngsters who have gathered today that it is meant for you guys. She had the innate compulsion to render her work into English solely for the sake of our posterity. Few people have done so. Let me congratulate Mrs. Elcy Yohannan Sankarathil for taking it upon herself for this meritorious vocation/calling for the sake of our future generations.

“True Perspectives” consists off our parts: Part 1 (Stories and articles), Part 2 (Author’s observation), Part3 (Personalities), and Part 4 (Reminiscences). Her article on “Malayalee Nurses” Maiden Journey to America” in the 1970’s is a vivid description of the Malayalee nurses’ and their families’ subsequent immigration to the US. She concludes the story with a moral of “having a little compassion, humility, goodness, love and overall, the fear of God, for God will never leave us”.

The story of “A Mother’s Final Days” is very pertinent in the sense that is what, is happening now in many modern families. Bygones are the joint families; the nascent trend is a sole focus on the nuclear family.

Please listen to her description, “one midnight came a call about the mother’s demise. The’ foreign children’ all lived not far from each other. They all met at one’s sibling’s house. In the midst of the pain of loss was relief that the dear departed was spared further agony. Next day, they flew home en masse. They went to the mortuary and put the body on a flower-bedecked hearse; they brought their mother home and placed under an elaborate tent erected in the yard in front of the house. The throng of mourners was huge.The children wore masks of grief, the daughters were in nice black sarees with gold brocade and the sons were in black-and white with black tie. They put on most proper demeanor and gait for the sake of the video cameras.A well-orchestrated show. Then, to the long prayers said by high priests of the church, the body was laid to rest. The whole thing was quite an event. And one by one, the children left”. There lay a woman with seven of her eight children away in foreign lands. Look at the story teller’s touching narration: “How fortunate she be! Is being rich being happy? “The imagery of the unused, rusted wheelchair is a surpassing imagination.

The Tin Lamp’s story is like a Cinderella tale. The rise of a hardworking man from rags to riches. But he never forgets the hardship he has undergone. He does not forget his roots. Listen to what Achankunj has to say, “God gave me wealth enough for a golden lamp, but I never forgot where I came from. I have kept it like a treasure so that the shadow of pride might never darken my mind; it is the lamp that lighted my way all along. Even as I conquer new heights, it helps me reminisce my humble past”. “Where did I go wrong? “tells the story of a family, where the parents are working several shifts for earning wealth. They work, work, work, but have no time to converse with each other. Ultimately, they have a house, car and all the necessities of life. But no happiness”. This is a soul searching question for almost all Malayalees: where did I go wrong?

In Part 2, “Generational Conflict” is a particularly well written article. Let us have a look at the interesting observation.”Families tend to become competitive and to have excessive expectations of the children, the deleterious effects of which are visible in both societies. These children have gotten to be like Bonsai, stunted in small garden pots rather than being tree plants growing up in the open air and drawing sustenance from the ground. Plucked out of age appropriate fun and games and made to plod in academic pursuits, they turn Bonsai.” Is not the author’s illustration very impressive?

In Part 3, Mrs. Yohannan describes certain personalities. Being a poet herself, her adulation goes to many great poets including Puthencav Mathan Tharakan, Balamani Amma,Vailoppilly Sreedhara Menon, the first Asian Nobel laureate for literature, Rabindranath Tagore and so forth. No wonder she fell in love with Tagore’s Gitanjali. In her busy schedule as a full time employee, a priest’s wife and a mother to two growing boys, she took 8 years to complete the tiresome task of rendering Gitanjali into Malayalam.

In Part 4, Reminiscences,Chumaduthaangi is an allegory to symbolize modern parents of old age. They are useful only in their prime time as Chumaduthaangi for their dependants. Once they are old, they become just like the ancient Chumaduthaangi: for lorn, unused, unwanted like a derelict, a relic of the past as an eye sore.

Now let me sum up the introduction by saying that “True Perspectives” provides us insight into nostalgia, beauty of our left land past relic’s, family and human relations.

Mrs. Elcy Yohannan is lucky to have a very scholarly and beloved husband in Very Rev. Dr. Yohannan Sankarathil Cor Episcopa who is a never ready source of inspiration and strength. Let me conclude by wishing this illustrious writer all success in all her literary endeavors. Thank you and now let us listen to the youth who have assembled here, to hear what they have to say about this book. It is very relevant to note that we witness a literary forum where two generations – one generation born and brought up in Kerala and the other in the U.S. meet and exchange ideas for the first time about a book that contains so many ideas for the posterity. Kudos to Vicharavedi and Mrs. Elcy Yohannan.

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One response to “True Perspectives – An introduction (Book Review)”

  1. Daya Kutty says:

    Very expressive, beautiful speech.

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