Sumangali : Subrabharathimanians Tamil Novel in Translation
Of the Scheme Shattering Her
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
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”