Perumal’s stories come from simplest of backgrounds but have different shades of human emotions. The characters are unpretentious but touch your heart. Seasons of the Palm is one such simple tale of hope beyond endless struggle. Shorty, Belly, Tallfellow, Stumpleg and Stonedeaf are pledged to their masters by their parents for meager amounts. Though these kids are required to do the household chores as per their masters’ orders, their primary duty is to take care of the flock of sheep. They take them grazing in the fields, wash them, nurse them through pregnancies and take care of their young ones. Shorty animatedly does all other chores but looks forward to the taking sheep out in the fields. It’s when he can play around with the other kids who also come with their sheep. Selvan is his master’s son but accompanies them to the fields and is also their playmate.
An untouchable servant’s life is devoid of almost all the pleasures we take for granted. They toil hard, survive on limited meals and bear a heavy brunt of tiniest mistakes. Their tiny bodies are frail but their hearts are large. Shorty and his friends form a strong bond and share their joys and sorrows. Selvan tries hard to fit in but he is after all the master’s son. When Shorty receives a cruel punishment for an innocent mistake, his thinks he has had it. He no longer feels any pain on his body but has deep scars on his heart. These scars haunt him during dark nights but he knows there is no getting away. Until one day, when these deep-rooted scar surface in the cruelest manner and make Shorty do something that will change his life forever.
I have not read a simpler story than this. Five friends grazing sheep and living life to the fullest in whatever limited means they have. I have also not read a more beautiful and heart touching tale of hope and struggles; toil and rewards; faults and punishment; and guilt and redemption. Murugan’s description of the imagery is exceptional. His words portray the exact colours for reader’s imagination as he paints a picture in his mind. You can perfectly visualize the colour of the corn ears, the shades of dried earth and palm nuts and even the texture of the Big Rock. It’s like a motion picture playing in your mind in Eastman colour. The characters are intensely depicted and the story runs at a smooth pace. The climax is superlative and heart-wrenching.
About the Author: Perumal Murugan is a well-known Tamil writer and poet. He has written six novels and four collections each of short stories and poetry. Two of his novels have already been translated into English to wide acclaim: Seasons of the Palm, which was shortlisted for the prestigious Kiriyama Prize in 2005, and Current Show. He has received awards from the Tamil Nadu government as well as from Katha Books.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.