Marimuthu is thirty-five years old and unmarried. His only aim in life now is to find a bride. His farmworker Kuppan’s not-yet-20-year-old son is about to marry and Marimuthu resents it deeply. When his grandmother reminisces about how she got married at eleven, he gets so triggered that he lashes out, forcing her to leave the house she lived in for decades.
His contemporaries all have children of almost marriageable age, and he must deal with the pity they show him every time they meet. He has now become a laughing stock among his friends and even his family. Feeling all alone, he lies in bed, frustrated and depressed. At times, he is almost suicidal.
When the gossip about his drinking spreads and spoils one alliance, he quits drinking. Upon hearing that girls these days will need a TV, he buys a TV and gets a cable connection to his house in the middle of nowhere. After a potential alliance slips away when the family sees him working the fields in a loincloth, he begins dressing better. He ensures that there is always a stock of buttermilk at home after a match didn’t work out just because they did not have buttermilk. But there are simply no women left for Marimuthu to marry.
Marriage brokers armed with betelnut boxes offer him hope and take advantage of his desperation by selling him horoscopes of married women. Another broker mocks him by suggesting he marry someone of a different caste, something that he even begins to consider. A farmer like him cannot compete with lorry drivers or mill workers whom the girls and their families prefer these days. Vows made to various Gods are meaningless and sink like stones thrown into infinity wells.
Only the old matchmaker thaatha , the marriage broker who genuinely cares for Marimuthu continues to remain his well-wisher. Having failed in all his attempts to find Marimuthu a wife, he brings him another proposal: He offers to help mediate and settle an age-old family dispute. Several acres of red-soil land that belong to the family have been lying unused for decades because of a family feud and it is now time to resolve this.
‘The land seems to have shut all its entrances tight and was huddled inside quietly’
As Marimuthu walks through the vast stretch of disputed land, now overgrown with trees high enough to block out the sun, and thorny bushes that cover perfectly fertile, soft, red soil that could have borne good harvests all these years, he feels a sense of bonding with the land. Both he and the red-soil land have shut themselves to the world after years of being left behind, quietly wasting away. And both long for the day when their existence will have meaning once again. Marimuthu begins to believe that his wedding will happen once the land dispute is settled.
Resolve is a typical Perumal Murugan story that takes us into rural Tamilnadu, where, in
urban parlance, there are no girls for Marimuthu to swipe. In a community where class and caste rule, female foeticide, and sex-selective abortions are rampant and this has resulted in a dire situation where there are only four girls left in a village of twenty eligible boys; the bald, leftover thirty-something men excluded.
When matchmaker thaatha blames society for this situation, at first Marimuthu doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if people abort girl babies or feed them paddy grains and choke them to death. All he wants is a bride. But as his futile quest continues, he begins to think. He remembers one of the unwanted baby girls who was killed many years ago and wonders if she could have been his wife today had they let her live. He resolves to have as many daughters as he can so that no boy ever has to experience what he feels.
While there is a lack of women for Marimuthu to marry, there is no dearth of other women in his life who wield their influence and power over him. His mother with her unreasonable demands of dowry has sent away potential brides over the years and her drama makes Marimuthu give up plans of marrying a widow. His sister subtly blackmails him during a critical ritual to make him promise more gold for her daughter. The marriage broker Veeduthi sits on their doorstep, spitting her betel juice, taunting him. And most importantly his paternal grandmother, his biggest influence continues to weave her way into his life throughout his journey to find a bride.
Most of the men are small and insignificant and shrink into the background. Marimuthu’s father is a mere prop and even his cousin Selvarasu who initiates the land dispute resolution shrinks into the background later for reasons closer to his heart. One feels sorry for Marimuthu when he visits a girl’s house and sits patiently under a tree, waiting for her father, not even being offered a glass of water. He is just one of the many options for the girl and he can’t afford to have the ego that a bridegroom is usually expected to have. It is the lower caste men throughout the book who have more clout, and take charge. Yet do not get their due.
Translated from the original Kanganam , Aniruddhan Vasudevan’s translation works beautifully, and just like One Part Woman , the book does not read like a translation. It is not a page-turner and meanders slowly with a word here or a scene there that touches many serious problems that continue to plague rural society, still without a solution in sight.
About the Book
- Perumal Murugan (Translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan)
- Hamish Hamilton
- Rs 499; 400 pages