Prereading Exercises for Yuka Canti
- The Author: The
author of this story, Jeyakanthan ×÷¿´Ôÿ»¨ is a prolific writer,
having written many stories, essays, and other works. A useful account
of his early life can be found at
site Jeyakanthan was born in and spent his early life in
where this story takes place. A list of Jeyakanthan's writings is given
- The Setting:
- Cuddalore: is
the district "capital" of the administrative district of
Vallalar, one of the 28 administrative districts of the state of
Tamilnadu. Cuddalore is on the
seacoast south of Madras City,
between the former French colony of Pondicherry and the important temple
town of Chidambaram.
Though this story takes place in Cuddalore, Gouri PaaTTi
was born in Chidambaram, a famous temple town about 50 miles south
of Cuddalore. Read some more about Chidambaram here. The
importance of Chidambaram to the story is its orthodoxy, a place of ritual
purity and tradition, which Gouri is seen to embody. Later her adherence
to the orthodoxy is challenged. Chidambaram is only one of a number of
famous temple-towns. South Indian temples are famous within India, and the
most famous are those constructed by the Cholas (|coo7a|) whose empire
extended over a large territory of South India and into Sri Lanka from
approximately the 2nd century, becoming politically dominant in the 9th
century (great temple-building activity from the 9th century onwards), and
then finally beginning to wane in the 13th; . Read about the temples of S.
India at this site.
Read more about the history of the South Indian dynasties (Cholas,
Pallavas, Pandyas) at the following sites:
Neyveli, also mentioned in the story, is a grimy,
industrial place where lignite coal is mined and burned for electrical
energy, as well as a location for chemical and pharmaceutical plants of
various sorts. It was exploited with Soviet assistance during the 1950's,
and became a boomtown, with all the social (and environmental) ills of
boomtowns. As a 'new' town, it was a logical place for an unorthodox widow
to take up employment, and even contemplate remarriage. Later the German
government got involved in
financing the extraction of lignite at Neyveli. Read about
environmental and social mitigation planned for coal extraction sites
that were formerly subsidized by the GOI at this site
- Themes: This
story deals in several ways with the problem of widow remarriage, an
issue that has deep cultural roots in India, and is still a problem today.
Read about modern responses to the taboo of widow remarriage here.
You can learn more about a movement to abolish strictures against widow
remarriage, and encouraging education for women (especially orthodox widows)
by going to the following:
paaTTi, as an orthodox Brahman widow, is served by a barber (who shaves
her head on regular occasions) who is in a jajmani relationship
with her. The Jajmani (Yajamani) system involved "barter-exchange
of the surplus product from the various producing castes in a village."
These workers received their share as payment for the services they rendered
to other castes of the village. That meant that it was right to
perform the work involved, and their right to receive the compensation,
hereditarily. When the father died, the son inherited the jajmani right,
and these rights could not be abrogated. Similarly, the person who did
certain work was obligated to do it for the family/caste he/she
was serving, and could not quit. In modern times, industrialization, urbanization
and other social forces have undermined this system, and the caste system
it is embedded in, so that few vestiges of it remain.
Read more about
the jajmani system here and
firstname.lastname@example.org, last modified 10/22/98.