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POOJAMMA

The Woman who Redefined Womanhood

M C Raj

The story starts with death and ends with blooming of full life. In between death and birth the novel brings to life a towering inferno called Poojamma in many flashbacks. The interpolation of death and birth are not just accidental. They are designed and carefully planned by many actors in the novel. That makes the novel an absorbing reading. A woman centric novel that is social as well as predominantly political! The mesmerizing and strategic power of a woman is bound to shock the conscience of the male world. The reluctance of the world to accept woman as powerful is however, the usual stereotype. Politics centered around the personality of a woman who takes on caste system in India and political corruption may invite both light hearted readers and serious ones to plunge themselves into the many pages of the novel without any serious risk. There could still be mild tremors in the mindset of those who still look down upon women as second class citizens.

Nina, the American journalist epitomizes half the story of Poojamma, her mentor. Immediately after receiving the news of the death of Poojamma, in Karnataka of India she sets out in Air India towards India. She fills the belly of the plane with many flashback dreams of her relationship with Poojamma, the indomitable woman-power. Poojamma is a social reformer of sorts who has opted to live in a village among Dalits, the historically untouchable people of India. She brings unity among different castes by educating people on the evil of caste discrimination and convinces them of the need to live as human beings in dignity. She becomes very popular among poor people of all castes.

Her popularity sends jitters in the raw nerves of local politicians who take the help of their bosses in the city to fight Poojamma. But they do not expect the metal that Poojamma is made of. Eeranna is the local politician who makes mistake after mistake in taking on the might of Poojamma. Dinesh, the political guru of Eeranna falls into his net and behaves like a rotten politician. Both of them successfully create a quagmire and find themselves irredeemable. They make it their mission to execute the downfall of Poojamma in order to gain votes from poor people of their constituency. Their strategies boomerang. They take ‘professional’ assistance from their political bosses who are ministers in government and finally succeed to assassinate Poojamma in a dastardly bomb blast. The provocation for murder plot is the successful struggle of Poojamma in a huge land grabbing issue in which Dinesh is involved.

The State police are reluctant to take up serious investigation into Poojamma’s murder. Nina takes it upon herself as a personal mission to make the Government of India to order an official investigation of the murder by the Central Agency. She succeeds through diplomatic channels and discovers in the process, the adopted daughter of Poojamma’s. Nina discovers that Pramila works as the German Ambassador in Iraq.

The Central Agency finally reports that Poojamma was brutally assassinated in a bomb blast by hired goons of a minister in the government at the behest of Dinesh. All culprits are arrested and put in jail. The courts find it as the rarest of rare case. Even as the judge is about to deliver his judgment the prosecution lawyer requests the judge not to give death sentence to the culprits but instead put them in jail for life. When followers of Poojamma protest against the lawyer he points his fingers to Kala who says that death sentence was untenable in the value system of Poojamma’s.

The other half of the story is narrated as a flashback by Kala, the prodigy of Poojamma’s who joins her as a domestic help but grows to dizzy heights in the People’s Movement that Poojamma builds up. The trinity of Poojamma, Nina and Kala weave the entire story with all its intricacies. The readers is sure to be caught in this literary cobweb. The way Kala weaves the story of the sexapades of Dinesh and Eeranna in Thailand and in Delhi stuns the American journo. But Kala makes it simple to hear as if it is a daily drama in the life of village dames in rural India. The emergence of Pramila who is the adopted daughter of Poojamma’s, her bold and beautiful foray into the house of Eeranna to execute his political downfall, her ascent to become the German Ambassador in Iraq etc. add a lot of spice to the story not allowing a moment of boredom to the reader.

The convergence of different castes for peace, the political battles of Poojamma and her followers, the successful land struggles of ordinary village people, the reversals of political fortunes of Eeranna and Dinesh, the sexapades of other politicians, the huge popularity of Poojamma among the poor, the emergence of Pramila the genius daughter of Poojamma’s, the intervention of Secretary of State of the US, the setting up of an award in memory of Poojamma, the stepping into the shoes of Poojamma by Kala etc. etc. add a lot of Indian fragrance to the mystery of character building and plots of the novel. Add to this the writing style of M C Raj and you will get confused if you are reading a fiction or a true story. And indeed the novel is based on many true incidents with a heavy doze of fictional flavor. Even the personality of Poojamma is a heady mix of fictional and real life characters.

This novel is bound to take the reader on a roller coaster of many fictional intricacies. Poojamma is indeed a path-breaking novel in the realization of woman’s centrality in human history.

This fiction novel which is my 20th book and 5th novel will be available in all bookstores within the next fortnight.