Prakaasham Parathunna Penkutty was one of the first short stories in Malayalam I read in my lifetime. If my memory is correct, the story was there in the Malayalam curriculum of Kerala State Syllabus in sixth or seventh grade.
T Padmanaabhan’s Sakhaavu, published by Mathrubhumi Books, is the compilation of his ten latest short stories. The book also features an interview with the author by Pradeep Perashanoor. Though most of the stories in this anthology were published in the leading weeklies of Malayalam in the past year or so, I hadn’t read any of them. So I didn’t hesitate much before buying this latest compilation.
Critics often lament in Public Forums and Social Media Platforms that stalwarts like T Padmanabhan and M.T. have lost their mojo and have, in turn, lost connection with the present-day realities. But after reading this latest work by T. Padmanabhan, I can confidently say that none of these so-called critics hasn’t probably read any of the recent works by T.P.
In most of the stories in this anthology, the author is the narrator/principal character. The black humour and wit in some of them are spot on. Be it the episode around the wannabe NRI writer in ‘ Aadyathe Novel’ or the hullabaloo ensuing in the event of a famous officer’s superannuation in ‘Manoharam’; the sarcasm is unmissable. The title story, ‘Sakhaavu,’ tries to be a commentary on present-day politics and partially succeeds in its attempt. Peerumettilekkulla Vazhi is a memory lane trip that deals with themes like immigration and self-discovery. Snehathinte Vila is about kindness and humanity, whereas Ennittu delves with second chances. Though some stories have ambiguous endings, it doesn’t make them monotonous reads.
The book is edited well and has a good production design. The cover design and the beautiful illustrations (Devaprakash) interspersed between stories also deserve special mention. The interview with the author is also genuinely exciting and manages to illuminate the writer’s perspective on the current socio-political scenario.
On the whole, ‘Sakhaavu’ is an enjoyable anthology.
Ps- In the author’s bio, it is mentioned that he had refused Odakkuzhal Award, Kerala Sahithya Academy Award and Kendra Sahithya Academy Award. I found it rather amusing. I am unaware of the circumstances for him declining the award, but if he found himself accepting those awards not worthy of his stature, why is he proclaiming the same in his bio as if refusing it is a great badge of honour?! Pathetic, to say the least!