‘Estuary‘ by Perumal Murugan is a story set in urban background. This book is the story of Kumarasurar, a government servant who upholds high moral standards in work as he is assigned to a department where bribery is just next to impossible. He is a man with some standard practices that are obsolete and shows strong resistance to changes in and around him. Like many usual middle-class men who hate to take any sort of risks in life, he always makes safe choices and strongly believes in safe play in life with no scope of troubles to himself and by him too.
As a part of his self-made standards, it also makes him technology illiterate. He always complains that he is not comfortable working with a computer with all the wires hanging around that remind him of snakes. With his utter foolishness, he even hesitates to learn how to work on a computer. While he is like this, his son Meghas is on par with the present generation and technology. This young teenage lad dreams of a greater life. His wife Mangasuri often criticizes Kumarasura for his laid back approach. She gets irritated by his friends and especially Kanakasura who is a father of two girl kids but always yielded to have a male kid when his wife decided not to have any more kids. His constant want for a male kid later turns onto a habit of curing and ridiculing the male kids in the area. Mangasuri hates this trait and tries to keep Meghas out of his eye whenever possible.
However, in the latter parts of the story, Kumarasur with strict ideals and a growing suspicion of his adolescent son and his loyalties due to the influence of his friend Kanakasur’s constant complaints about growing up male children doesn’t let him live at peace. Meghas, who now studies in a boarding school, being away from home and being more on his own self, starts showing signs which displease Kumarasur. With differences in opinions, there bridges a gap between the father and son. Meghas becomes closer to his mom which then pricks Kumarasur. With a rigid mentality, Kumarasur often struggles within himself not knowing how to develop a cordial relationship with his son. This further gets agitated when Meghas asks a smartphone. Because of his stringent thinking, he imagines Meghas as a spoiled child, but there is something else on the other side of the story.
The next part of the story emphasizes on the atrocities that are forced onto students in the name of attaining higher grades and marks in many of the reputed educational institutions. As this book is originally written in Tamil, the colleges stationed in Tamil Nadu are focused. With a wave of urbanization and to cope up with the competition to face the world, often young children are raised up in strict environments which rather curbs the freedom of the children. There are specialized punishments in some places which are often accepted by the parents thinking such rules will make their children walk in the right manner. But what usually they forget to understand is forced rules always result in breaking rules. Children sometimes also become violent.
On the other hand, the man who hates changes, Kumarasura is well raged about the existence of adult sites on the internet that can be accessed with a smartphone and hence develops a kind of mental concern about his son being polluted. His regular such paranoid thoughts make him impatient. Irrespective of his anxiety, Meghas though chooses a college that gives importance to a child’s freedom, remains a studious and well-mannered kid.
This is where Murugan’s exemplary writing skills come into action. With a free-spirited imagination of the places, people especially the personalities of ‘Asuras’ and prevailing social inequalities, Estuary happens to be the face of the present society. Though many people oppose, to safeguard their children’s life none resist.
This story though is a work of fiction, can be categorized into realistic fiction which showcases the present lives. With a competition that is a burden to many parents, children often are made to stud in great academic colleges which enables the kids from rich families to lead an easy student life. A person coming from a small town or a lesser economical strata family often faces many problems. Due to which the kids face mental turmoil and end up their lives. This also prevails in some of the esteemed corporate companies where because failing in an assessment test their jobs are at risk and many young engineers and management professionals have killed themselves.
In this book, Murugan has pointed out many other social issues present in society even today. I have listed some of them below:
1. Male dominance and absurd way of showing authority on children and women.
2. Rigidness towards changes around concerning technology and living standards due to deep-rooted outdated principles.
3. Ill effects of disparity in economical statuses
4. A fear of molding oneself towards the cultural differences
What to expect
A fantastic work of fiction that will make the reader sit and think once the book is completed. This thinking quotient will grow gradually as every word in the story starts sinking in.
My take on the characters
Every character in the story is so realistic that if young people read they will surely identify the next house uncle or their own relative who makes absurd statements on new-age technology and urban lifestyles.
The title of the book ‘Estuary’ is thoughtful and philosophical. As the word means the wide mouth part of a ricer which meet at the sea, the story is of simple people caught up in the web of urban life.
The cover image of the book is a mirrored reflection of two men in the water. Though details or an outline of the story cannot be fetched from the image, the mere mention of water in the image can be referred to as the title Estuary.
How good is the author’s writing stylePerumal Murugan is known for his beautiful writing skills and great narration talent. This book also reflects the same as before his previous works. The underlying lessons have created a wave of anxiety when the book was first released in Tamil. The story in many places questioned the authoritative approach of people in power.
Who can read the book
Any reader with minimum knowledge about the ill effects of heavy competition and false propaganda of giving better lives by big colleges can read this. One can also correct their though process and hence this is the effect great writing skills have. Murugan often inspires many people and thus this book also might have already inspired. Now, when translated into English, I thank the translator Miss. Nandini for having done a great job.
(Reviewed by Swapna Peri)