Review of The novel Rekai by the Tirupur- Subrabarathimanian
When Astrologers Failed to Foresee their Future
The novel Rekai by the Tirupur-based popular novelist Subrabarathimanian is a portrait of the contemporary society, which has almost lost its tradition and culture as a victim to the widespread globalization and privatization. Set in a village on the banks of a river called ‘ Muruga Nadhi’ ( Could be Shanmuga Nadhi) near Palani, the southern border of the ancient Kongunadu, the Tamil novel brings to light the uncertain lives of the people, particularly, the Valluvars – a community, whose traditional occupation is palmistry and astrology.
At a time when the invention of computer is working wonders in science and technology, the features in the machine in Tamil Nadu are used even to predict one’s future by ‘ scientifically’ analyzing horoscopes in the name ‘Computer Jathagam’
The book, which reveals the reality of modern life through its characters Amalam, Parameshwari, Gopal, Rathinavelu, Ganapathy, Subbaiah and many others, reflects a society, which is devoid of its moral values with the impact of socio-economic changes.
“My husband became a habitual drinker and was of no use to the family. So I drove him out of my home” says the character Amalam, who ekes out a living by selling flowers at the foothills of Palani.
However, Subrabarathimanian has portrayed the Amalam as the one, who again looks for her husband in the temples of Thiruvannnamalai and Perur.
Subbaiah, a playwright and cinema buff, who, once, staged a number of plays of artistic interest in the village, is eking out a living by staging street plays and composing songs on awareness on HIV, child labour and so on as directed by the NGOs, which make big money from foreign funds. On the other hand, Gopal, who hails from a traditional astrologers family, realizes that survival was hardly possible without giving a ‘scientific character’ to traditional astrology. Hence, he sets up his ‘astrology offices’ at Tirupur and Chennai – the two wealthy towns of Tamil Nadu. Interestingly, he also self styles himself wearing a kurda and smearing sacred ash with sandal paste on his forehead and calling him as ‘Cinema Jothidar ‘(Cinema astrologer). By doing so, he attracts many clients from the tinsel town, as they are believers in the omen, which is sure to bring fortunes and misfortunes in their venture.
The village near Palani still has a handful of traditional astrologers, who ‘predict’ one’s future by analyzing the person’s horoscope. Nevertheless, in the contemporary commercial world, a parrot astrologer has set up his stall at the Muniappan Temple in the village. When a man in the novel questions him of doing business by interfering the profession of traditional astrologers, the parrot astrologer says:
“Parrot astrology is like ‘fast food’ and it helps people know their fortunes at once. You are a bachelor. Aren’t you? Why don’t you know your marriage prospects from a card picked by my parrot? “
B. Meenakshi Sundaram