Tradition…Is not an excuse by Brendan Kiely: Review

Title: Tradition…Is not an excuse

Author: Brendan Kiely

Publisher: Penguin Books

Pages: 339

Price: Rs 399

What is a tradition? The word ‘tradition’ is derived from ‘tread-on’. It is a seemingly long and uninterrupted process of an act or a phenomenon. But it cannot and shouldn’t be adduced as an excuse just because it bears the fallacy of duration and also of the fallacy of majority. It’s a crusade of Jules and Jamie (James) against the toxic rape culture that goes on unabated and unquestioned thus far.

The motive of Brendan Kiely’s novel Tradition is rape, often engendered by the misuse of male privilege. It’s a timely book on a sensitive issue: Rape. And what is rape? It’s (d)rape minus ‘d’. To drape is to clothe and to rape is to de-clothing of a female body. It goes beyond physicality or plight of feminine fragility. It’s a matter of male masculinity and its extreme destructive manifestation.

The world, which feigns ignorance when a rape is committed, is now waking up to its ramifications and dire consequences. No wonder, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to two individuals who fought tirelessly against the menace of rape in war-ravaged societies and also in apparently ‘healthy’ groups of humans.

The protagonists of the novel take upon themselves to raise their voice against this tacit tradition that exploits women, young women at that. The book, especially, contextualises Indian society and its patriarchal notions despite not being set against Indian societal milieu. Because rape in India is often seen as a tradition and also a reaffirmation of male virility.

The western world is not so different from ours because human spirit is universal. To quote A K Ramanujan, “Rapes are committed here and rapes are committed there/But who among us will ever care?”

The book is devoid of sloppy sentimentalism and copious tears of victimisation. It calls for action and shuns a preachy approach. Tradition goes beyond sexual exploitation. It tackles the sensitive subject in a very prudent manner and provides cogent solution/s. One wonders, can rape culture or tradition be scrapped? Frankly speaking, social ills can never be eliminated in one go. You can’t broom them off so easily. But their very foundations can be assaulted and with the passage of time, the valhalla of evils will crumble down.

The author has adroitly dealt with this issue and succeeded to a great extent. It’s a book for those who believe in meaningful dissents and purposeful protestations. A must-read in these rape-redundant times of ours.

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