Prereading Exercises for Yuka Canti


  1. The Author: The author of this story, Jeyakanthan is a prolific writer, having written many stories, essays, and other works. A useful account of his early life can be found at this site Jeyakanthan was born in and spent his early life in Cuddalore, where this story takes place. A list of Jeyakanthan's writings is given at this site
  2. The Setting:

  3. 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:
  4. Jajmani: Gauri 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 here.


haroldfs@ccat.sas.upenn.edu, last modified 10/22/98.