I picked up this critically acclaimed classic to better understand Malayalam literature and life in rural Kerala. It is not one big epic but a collection of incidents set in and around a village that is 10 minutes from my home in Palakkad. The writer exercises abundant subtlely in his narration and bounces forth from reality and imagination so much so that much is left to the interpretation of the reader. What I enjoyed the most was the depiction of the many, many folklores and superstitions of Khazak and how the characters’ lives were influenced by these collective imaginations. The way the author concludes storylines, leaving behind a sense of eeriness, makes one wonder if he himself was a believer of the myths and makes me think that I would’ve concluded differently. It is disappointing though that there are no remarkable/strong female characters and while lovable, they mostly resign themselves to fates laid out by men. From the conversations between characters, one can garner that it wasn’t a very feminist society. The book also makes one question the notion of traditional morality, comparing it via-a-vis the versions imparted in your family, what role it plays in the lives of very common people and what differences exist in their observance between different castes and classes. Another feature is the role caste has to play in their lives and how social hierarchy by birth continue to skew interactions, even their language, faith, livelihoods and wealth and outlook to education. The depiction of the lives of lower caste citizens is insightful. There’s a lot of imagination I found nauseating, perhaps because I’m a “sanitized”, relatively westernised reader making one reflect on how people in the same locality change across generations.