The story of a woman commie
Dr Vaidehi Nathan
Fading Dreams, Old Tales, Pa Visalam, translated by Meera Rajagopalan, Oxford University Press,Pp 270(HB), Rs 495.
PA Visalam was caught up in the heady early days of Communist movement in south India. And her semi-autobiographical novel, the first by a woman Communist activist reflects the political evolution she went through as she saw her faith withering away. Fading Dreams, Old Tales tells the story of the youngest girl in a large family, brought up with lot of indulgence. Her life takes a bad turn with the death of her father. Her sisters fight over the property, the house in which she and her mother lived. One of them even sends a court notice demanding a share.
Pushed into poverty and struggle, this girl, with strong convictions and stronger mind fights against odds. Exposed to the inequalities in the world and attracted to the ideology of communism and its upcoming young leaders, she gets drawn into the party. She falls in love with a young leader Nandan and marries him in an unconventional way, away from the family. Meanwhile, through all these, her Communist party breaks, with a section of the leadership walking out to form a new party. The novel In fact Ends in that note.
Pa Visalam, a well-known writer, lives in Pondicherry and has authored two other novels. While her husband is an entrepreneur, she is involved in social work. The book has been translated by Meera Rajagopalan, a journalist and writer and with an introduction by Prema Nandakumar, a senior writer and scholar. Several Tamil terms have been used which blend with the narrative, translating which would have sounded jarring. There is a glossary at the end which can guide the reader. This volume is part of the translations taken up by the Oxford University Press, as part of their marking hundred years of publishing in India. A highly enjoyable socio-political novel with a lot of rural flavour and human emotions.
(Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, 1 Jai Singh Road, New Delhi 110 001)