Book: Half Gods
Author: Akil Kumarasamy
Publisher: Akil Kumarasamy,
Pages: 205; Price:499
Through her trumpeting debut, Half Gods, Akil Kumarasamy very skillfully weaves a collection of heart-melting stories. The writer offers a glimpse of the extraordinarily ordinary, yet strangely captivating life of some very obscure characters.
Two brothers named after the “Half Gods” from the mythological tale of the Mahabharat yearn for privacy and find their existence miserable in the suburbs of Kentucky living under ‘house arrest’. Karna is haunted in his nightmares about the plight of the Tamil civilians. Although their grandfather flees the country in his youth to escape war and seek asylum in the US, peace continues to elude them. With Selvakumar’s betrayal of his dear friend Muthu and the former’s escape from his village, the ensuing tale reeks of deception and a new-found freedom.
The people of the village revel on the eve of their independence and contrary to their expectations, wake up to a day where there is nothing but destruction. Though the countrymen get their freedom, they are still in the shackles of prejudices and inequality. This is evident by the fact that Muthu, on being betrayed by his best buddy, does not refrain from calling him an ‘Indian Coolie’ and emulates his father in having a mind less than that of a teaspoon. The cold and indifferent attitude of the police towards the predicament of an Entomologist, who desperately seeks justice for his son’s mysterious disappearance, makes our heart seethe with indignation. This exposes the underbelly of the sordid system.
Later in the compilation, Arjun struggles to accept the sexual orientation of his brother. On finding him in a homosexual intimacy with his friend Gurmit, he gets disgusted by their queerness and calls them ‘freaks.’ He even thrashes Karna. It is a sardonic satire on the hypocritical attitude of the people who have no courage to accept the truth. This incident scars Karna for life and he is unable to come out of the closet as a gay.
A divorcee butcher, Marlon, is grief-stricken after the loss of his missing daughter and fails to move on with life. Once in a dinner at the home of his regular customer, Nalini, he feels strangely at home. Her gentle disposition gravitates him to her and he considers leaving the past behind and marrying her. Unfortunately, soon he receives a bombshell on realizing that it is not love but pity that Nalini feels for him. The humans, in their suffering, long for happiness and seek the warmth of solace where it doesn’t exist. Born of Hindu parents but brought up as a Muslim, Saraswati shares the ordeal of her father, a runaway and a thief, who himself is a victim of communal disharmony and succumbs to its unfairness. He later adopts the baby Saraswati.
Through her mélange of stories, Kumarasamy sensitively reflects on what men live by in a society. She nonchalantly reveals what the world often does not dare to utter. The modern relevance of the mythological narrative, has been deftly dealt and clothed with a contemporaneous freshness and here lies the triumph of this raconteur. In a nutshell, it provides crisp insights into modern relational issues.