One of the most controversial books in recent times, this one caught my attention when the author, declared his necrology as a writer following protests and from religious groups for hurting their sentiments and religious beliefs though 'One Part Woman'. A series of litigation followed and the later half of 2016 saw Madras High Court granting Perumal Murugan the victory. The judgment is still hailed as the victory of the right to free speech.
Originally written in Tamil, One Part Woman explores Kali's and Ponna's relationship and the hurdles they have to face for being a childless couple after 12 years of marriage. The elements of faith and loyalty in the relationship are challenged when the couple succumbs to the pressure from friends and family to take part in the chariot festival in the temple of Half Female God where the rules are relaxed for one night and consensual union between any man and woman is allowed. Though it was an attempt to put an end to the misery and humiliation, how this affects the couple and thier relationship forms the rest of the story.
Yes, the theme and the religious practices sound odd, but there is nothing obscene written, and as the HC mentioned in the final judgement, sexuality is nothing new to Indian culture and the hipocrisy prevalent today in our society was gifted by the British Raj regime. I consider One Part Woman as a work which explores how social and emotional pressures influence human lives.
Concluding with Nallayan's philosophy on life and kids. “But do you know how you should live? Like that crow that has built a nest on that palm tree. When it knows it is going to lay eggs, it builds its nest. Then it incubates the eggs and hatches them. It finds food for the little ones and takes care of them until they grow their own wings. Once that happens, what do you think is the relationship between the baby crow and its mother? They go their separate ways. “You got your wings, now get out of here, and fend for yourself.” That’s the way to live. Instead, we give birth, raise them, get them married, save money and struggle. Is this any way to live? If we were more like crows and cuckoos, I’d also like to have children."