Tag Archives: injustice

Outcaste by Matampu Kunhukuttan. Translated from the Malayalam by Vasanthi Sankaranarayanan

OutcasteTitle: Outcaste
Author: Matampu Kunhukuttan
Translated from the Malayalam by Vasanthi Sankaranarayana
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 978-9388292498
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

For me, personally, it isn’t easy to read a book on how women are treated in India. It disturbs me and rightly so. It upsets me and it should. It should shake my core, because how else will we become aware and perhaps do something about it? How else will we know more and understand the atrocities committed in the name of caste and religion time and time again, without any repercussions at all?

Outcaste is the kind of book that jolts you from your cushy and comfortable existence, making you see the injustices perpetuated by upper caste men in India. A problem that sadly is relevant even today. A problem that shouldn’t have been relevant, after 72 years of Independence and yet it is.

The book is about the revenge of a single woman named Paptikutty on her lovers who belong to the most powerful families of the land. The book is based on a 1905 trial – where Paptikutty was tried for adultery. Outcaste also looks at the arc of the Namboodiri family in Kerala who were most powerful in Kerala and how Paptikutty’s revenge weakened them. It was the Namboodiri men who took her court to outcaste her because she had so many lovers. She was one of them and they wanted nothing to do with her.

Outcaste is a book that is about the patriarchal society but deep down it is also about its downfall and how that happens slowly and steadily at some level or another. This isn’t an easy read and yet I could not stop turning the pages. The book explores ancient Kerala culture and there were a lot of words and phrases that needed me to refer to Google, but it was all worth it because that’s the essence of the book. Vasanthi’s translation and Matampu’s writing gives us a cast of characters that are victims of their own choices and situations that they choose to be in because of society constructs. Outcaste is a love story of sorts, but also a march against injustice, inequality, and is a call to heal the broken with only justice and vengeance at the core.

The Confession by John Grisham

Grisham always has a message and in The Confession, he presents, in pure vintage Grisham, his views on capital defense, Texas politics and those that are caught in the conflict on both sides of a murder. I trust Grisham’s thorough knowledge of the law, especially in a southern venue which makes the tale easier to accept and gives me more freedom to judge his plot and characterization.

Donte Drumm is on Death Row, accused of murdering a young, white girl. When we meet him, he has been incarcerated in prison for nine years and his execution is imminent. He confessed to the murder and then quickly recanted but this did not convince an all white jury, and this is Texas, and you don’t mess up in Texas. Grisham hammers us with his disrespect for the Texas justice system and politics.

Robbie Flak is a capital defensive attorney, depicted as a brilliant, volatile man on a mission. He has his own baggage but he fights for those on Death Row; they have no money or connections. These cases can cost millions to defend and since Texas has no public defender system of any consequence, defense attorneys can earn some serious money from the counties who want their death sentences carried out. I found this information very interesting regarding the millions spent on the death penalty.

Two other characters are significant: the Lutheran minister Keith Schroeder and Travis Boyette, the dying parolee who admits to killing the Nicole, the white girl. The families of Drumm and Nicole are an excellent study in tragedy and the decency of some of those involved. Grisham is very clear which family members he respects and the depth of their pain is palpable. Donte’s mother, Roberta, represents the singular pain of a mother’s grief and the barefaced frustration of injustice.

Grisham makes no attempt to hide his political views which helps carry the story, rather than inhibit it. In any event, I trust Grisham’s legal expertise and he still can write a page turner. But Grisham also encourages us with several examples of people doing the right thing despite the pressures of racism, and I cried at one of those examples. A key football game (but then, aren’t they all key games in Texas?) is moved to a new location, and the players show a solidarity for the situation at hand that brought tears to my eyes. And made me want to keep reading.

And in the end, those to me are the signs of a great book, which Grisham has given us once again. Without a doubt, The Confession is a must-read for seasoned Grisham fans and those looking for a story that binds old ideas with the new era.

The Confession; Grisham, John; Random House India; Rs. 299