Sumangali : Subrabharathimanians Tamil Novel in Translation
Of the Scheme Shattering Her 'Auspicious' Dreams
The young girls employed in textile mills under the scheme called 'Sumangali Thittam' are hardly given leave or rest even during their menstrual period. The scheme hires girls between 15 and 18 years old for work on contract basis, which promises a payment of lump sum, using which they could meet their marriage expenses. Sumangali, a novel on the misery of such girl workers, depicts their hardship of working long hours, bearing verbal and physical abuses of the factory supervisors. Worse still, the hostel wardens of mills even force the girls to have pills to postpone their menstrual period.
Portraying such shocking realities of the Sumangali scheme, Subrabharathimanian, a Tirupur-based popular writer has penned the Tamil novel Sumangali, which has been translated into English by P. Ramgopal, a retired professor of English.
'Andhra' Sujatha, a character portraying a Sumangali scheme worker, expresses a situation in the novel thus:
“ You know, once the mill's hostel warden remarked that it would be better if the uteri of the girl workers were removed so that they would not take leave citing their menstrual period”
But, another character answers 'Andhra' Sujatha thus:
“But, we are working here only to earn the lump sum and get married. And if our uteri were removed... Instead, they can take our kidneys and pay us the amount “
The novel centres round the character Muthulakshmi, the daughter of a spendthrift widower. The girl, advised by her uncle, joins work under Sumangali scheme. Though the author portrays her plight in the work place, he has created her as a symbol of self confidence and prototype to other suffering girls by narrating her fight against the odds.
The book also introduces another girl by name Catherine from the village Elachipalayam. A daughter of a liquor addict, she is forced to work under Sumangali scheme and commit suicide to escape an intolerable stomach ache by drinking the machine oil in her factory. The novel also informs about another girl, who is crushed to death after her clothes were caught in the machine while working in a mill at Karumathampatti near Tirupur.
Subrabharathimanian is an author of as many as 50 books. A recipient of Tamil Nadu state government award for his novel ' Saayathirai', which portrayed the environmental issues of Tirupur. The writer, who was also the Central Sahitya Akademi's advisory board member, has been editing the Tamil literary magazine Kanavu for over three decades.
“ I penned this novel after observing the plight of such girl workers under Sumangali scheme in the garment units and mills in Tirupur. And the character Muthulakshmi in my book represents such victims of the girl. A symbol of self reliance, Muthulakshmi fights unto the last despite losing her left hand in an accident at the factory “ avers Subrabharathimanian.
Ramgopal, who rendered the novel into English, said:
“ The novel Sumangali is a sad portrait of reality. With its literary merits inspiring me, I have translated it into English”
B. Meenakshi Sundaram