ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From the Inner Courtyard

Kaalappakarchakal (Transcending Time) by Devaki Nilayamgode (Kozhikode: Mathrubhumi Books), 2012; pp 168, Rs 80.

Kaalappakarchakal cannot be considered just as an autobiography. It is an invaluable record of the living conditions of Namboodiri women in the early 20th century. It has two parts: autobiography and some essays of her memories. Devaki Nilayamgode made a late entry into Malayalam literature. She began writing at the age of 75, after her grandson, Thadhagathan, persuaded his story-telling ammamma to pen her memories. Later, he gathered her notes and sent them to Bhashaposhini magazine, in which it came out as a series titled “Nashtabodhangalillathe” (With no Sense of Regret) (2003). Encouraged by her readers’ response, she wrote again, Yaathra: Kaattilum Naattilum (Journey: Through Forests and Lands) (2006) and Kaalappakarchakal (Transcending Time).1

As a good storyteller, Nilayamgode moves through the pages of her life’s album, taking us through the forbidden dark corridors to anthappurams (inside rooms) where thousands of antharjanams (Namboodiri women) spent their lives chained to rituals and social restrictions. Her detailed descriptions give readers a vivid picture of Pakaravoor illam (a Namboodiri household) where she was born and brought up. So much so, one could get lost in the naalukettu (enclosed courtyard), pathayappuras (buildings to store grains, where guests stayed occasionally), oottupuras (dining halls), natakashala (a hall for performing kathakali), and vadakkinis (northern courtyards) as well as thekkinis (southern courtyards). Not to mention, the porticos used by Namboodiris to relax, chew betel leaves, and swap stories, and the separate houses for sambandhams (informal marriage alliances with lower-caste women) and the resulting children. Every nook and corner of the illam has a story to tell about the untold sufferings of Namboodiri women.

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