"Thayumanavan" is the name for Lord Shiva, who also served as a mother. I feel it is a poem in one word, something that conveys the need of a feminine sensitivity in a man. I came across the novel by my favourite writer Balakumaran when I was in 9th standard. Before reading that I saw it as a TV serial in DD, with Chandrasekar and Vanaja essaying the lead roles. Only when I read the novel I realised the difference between the paper and execution on screen. The written form was simply amazing. Somewhere deep inside my mind it stayed and I feel it started influencing over my personality too, as those were the formative years of a human personality. I loved the way of life "Thayumanavan" portrayed.
His reputation of a fiery union leader goes against him in getting a job, his plans to migrate abroad is aborted by a fraud agent makes him go weak on his knees. Around the same time his daughter "grows" big, his son falls sick and understands the working pressure of his wife, he comes across an indecent proposition of a spinster next house, making him travel though a wide gamut of emotions and experiences. At the end of the novel, Paramasivam gets a job in Bombay and goes all alone leaving the entire home making responsibilities to his wife with a joy and satisfaction that he too had been a mother for some time. This justifies the title of the novel.
Since the story is set in early 80s thus making the life simpler and a delight to read. The milieu of middle class makes you sigh why life cant be so simple all again. This is one of the reasons why I am reading this book again and again.
The book starts as a flashback told on the eve of Paramasivam leaving to Bombay. The character graph of Paramasivam is told in a linear fashion. He is strict that the labourers fear of misbehaving in the shop floor. He is considerate that he makes it a point to be there for his colleagues whenever they need a moral support. The petty politics that exist in a factory, how the least educated employers are misguided and the professional rivalry, shop floor happenings make an interesting reading.
However the core of the novel, when Paramu is jobless is far interesting and rendering than the previous incidents. Every page will be identified and related with some of the happenings in our life or with someone next to us. The way the series of incidents unfold since Paramu loses his job, how it was conveyed to his wife, how she reacts and the incidents that happen in that night as a result of the reaction, whole things are told in an engrossing manner. (So engaging that despite reading the book for 10-12 times, it is still interesting every time as if it is being read for the first time).
Through out the novel there are many small characters that pop up for an incident yet stay in your heart for a long. Like…. "aappakkara kizhavi", who shakes Paramasivam with her unconditional affection. Paramu says "Aayiram perudaiya pagaiya kooda samalicchidalaam, aanal ivaludaiya anbai ennal samalikka mudiyavillai. Yaarival? enakku sonthama? Illai ennai keli seigiraala?” (Even if thousand people gang against, you can come up, but you can't withstand any unconditional love. Who is she to me?)
Another part that touched me is the relation between Paramasivam and his daughter. As usual the daughters are fonder of their fathers. I could visualise the scenes between them. But there are two instances I felt touched. One situation is when Paramasivam was in an embarassing situation about how to let know her daughter about the physical advancements made by his spinster neighbour. Latha understands it and as "Athu thuni pirichu padutthu kidanthatha? Nee keezhe poikko…. Naan thuni kaaya pottittu varrein". It needs a lot of understanding and care to help her father in such situations.
Throughout the novel, Paramu is treated as an average human being who is more concentrating in his work and workplace, leaving the household chores to his wife and not interfering in the daily activities. If the way he succeeds in managing the labourers show his leadership skills, his inability and frustration against the deputy leader shows his flip sides too. When he offers his resignation in a spurt reaction, it shows his impulsiveness. Yet the way he leaves the shop-floor shows how passionate he was towards his workplace. His initial reluctance to let Saraswathi work projects his orthodox mentality that women should not work, but later you realise that it is his love for children that make him resist her. But at this situation Saraswathi's moves was simply amazing. The way she convinces him by crying, making a scene and cooling him through sex, it was really interesting. Even though I am single, through observation of many families, I could identify completely with Paramasivam. The graph of the character is consistent and linear.
Saraswathi, wife of Paramasivam is one of the best characters I had come across in the novels. She is not a super woman, someone very normal, I had seen loads of housewives like her. I think that earthiness appealed to me. The way she reacts to her husband's resignation is something very natural, driven by insecurity, where the next meal comes from, Once she makes up her mind to take up the reins, how she fights for her right to take up a work is very practical. Her intimacy and passion towards her husband is shown in generous doses of bedroom scenes, which is a delight to read. Written not in a voyeuristic manner, but how sex is a natural part of life, it elevates the meaning of sex. She cares as a mother that her daughter should be brought up in a proper manner. The scene where Paramasivam and Saraswathi were arguing why things are going awry at home and find out that they both are caring for their kid's mental peace, is simply soothing. That hardcore femininity combined with courage and responsibility creates a respect towards womanhood. On the whole Saraswathi is a character that will linger a long in your mind, who knows you might start searching for those qualities in your wife.
The style of the writing is very simple and in a day-to-day lingo. Fortunately Balakumaran didn't try to put down his thoughts in a literature studded heavy words. The situations and the way individuals react to it are realistic. This is one of the best reasons why you could identify with this novel.
Towards the end when Paramasivam gets a job in Mumbai and rushes home to tell his wife "you take rest hereafter shouldering the responsibilities to me, let me take over", I really felt an excitement as if I had got a job. Even though I liked the Paramu's concern that the kids should have a proper care, I couldn’t understand the reason why Paramu looks down a working woman. There are millions and millions of working woman who are successful as home maker too.