A Moustache, that danced a History, a Cover story – Innsaei Journal

by MeeraMayaa

I am sitting here under an Apple tree, expecting an apple to fall on my head and bless me with loads and loads of ideas. Though there is an ocean of ideas germinating every moment, only to be shunned to grow and remain in the folds of my brain. Because today, both my heart and mind are in synch and still holding the vision that was created by the garland of words.

The picture, the people, the characters, the flora-the fauna, the situation, the stories. Did I say story? Well, what I read is layered with stories, which reminds me of a Rainbow ice cream. That’s exactly the feeling I get after reading the book, ‘Moustache.’
Unlike primary colors, the secondary colors are a combination of primary colors and similarly are the stories in this book, Moustache, written by the Author Hareesh.S in Malayalam with the title Meesha and translated by Jayasree Kalathil to English. Well, it’s been a beautiful journey of emotions than a mere word-to-word translation. This is the time I wish if I could read Malayalam too, to feel the emotions the author has brought in.

Whether it’s about the paddy field, below the sea-level farming, eenampechi, the pangolin, snakehead murrel, or the place where the stories travel within the multi-layered layers of stories or the metaphorically lyrical rendition of the stories. Holding the book in our hands and keeping our eyes intact will help us navigate and journey through the words, well the emotions I would say.

Ask me about Moustache,
Oh! It’s a pride for Men, well for many men, it’s all about showcasing the thick strands on their face, well how much it oozes out the masculinity, am unaware of. But being aware of this fact that it creates a quotient about, Chin-up and Shoulder raised phenomenon, and that’s the same in Moustache book where the protagonist, Vavachan, a man from the lower community, has traveled through the thin and thick strands of growth throughout the book through the author.

It does speak about the caste systems, patriarchal systems or the discrimination that existed in the colonial time and pre Independence British era in Kerala, which made the author and the book face wrath. But Nature has its own plan, the 2018 flood enabled in deviating the human mind to think about safeguarding themselves than looking at, what’s going on around.

The story revolves around the protagonist Vavachan, The Moustache, The Narrator, and his son, to whom the narrator shares a bedtime story every night. As the story box in the mind runs out of stories, we have the story flowing like a river from this place called Kuttanad, a beautiful piece of land surrounded by the rich flora and fauna, The Pulayans (as per the book and author, it’s a community which was considered as lower in the Caste system hierarchy), The Upper caste men, who were the only one to enjoy and showcase their thick keratins on their faces, The snakehead murrel, The eenampechi, The backwaters, The canals, the paddy field, below the sea-level farming, the lyrical rendition of the stories in a metaphorical way, myths, folklore, and traditions.

The stories flow like that river that is waiting to meet the sea. The emotions stay in our mind like a backwater, making us reflect, rethink, realign our thoughts and with the pearl drops in our eyes, which refuses to flow down, only to fill the space between our mind and heart with the experiences, situations, and lump in our throat.
The “Why’s, “are many, but not all the why has an answer.
I heard that few readers had a difficulty in remembering the names of the characters and place, but I feel that’s the beauty of a place and book and the author…
I am happy about the fact that the translation wasn’t a mere word to word or sentence to sentence, it was emotion to emotion and capturing all the elements that were in the original Malayalam book by the author, Hareesh S.

Writing a cover Story for this book, Moustache was like meditating the art of meditation the whole day and finding the science of it in my sleep. Yes, I couldn’t stop it with just alone reading the reviews on Amazon, or reading the interviews, well I enjoyed listening to the experiences shared by the author, Hareesh in Malayalam too. It was like tilling soil, irrigating it to sow the seeds, and holding the outcome in the form of a product in my hands.

Initially, I thought of reading the reviews and interview pieces to write a cover story, well each and every word shared by the author and translator made me click the online marketplace to fill my mind space with the satisfaction of grabbing my own copy. It was a one-time read and now am on my second time read. Every time you grab a leaflet in this book, it has yet another turn and a new dimension added to the story.
The author hasn’t just written this piece for the sake of publishing his work, well he has done a great amount of legwork by connecting with the local folks, the dialects, the types of flora and fauna that are exclusively found in Kuttanad, lifestyle, erstwhile systems, and the Protagonist Vavachan.

A character who developed an interest to let the mustache stay on his face against the wishes of the upper-class folks after a stage play. An image of Vavachanwould scares even a devil, the mustache which can swing children, the Moustache, the mustache…
Yes, the book is about the power of that Moustache and now when am on the road, I am actually looking if there’s a Vaavchan whom I can get to meet…
That’s the power of Storytelling. It’s a multilayered, sandwiched story between the words and lines..
No, it isn’t difficult to understand. When I finished reading, I felt that it’s a feeling of being relieved when a thorn is removed from our feet.

A book not to be missed!
Though it faced wrath, some thought the negative impact would draw more readers and fame to the author, but he clearly mentioned, he never expected fame out of such an act, well he only wanted to take the piece to the readers…A jewel in Malayalam literature.

As you have scrapped through with me in this journey till here, let me also add on that, it’s the author’s debut novel that has gone onto win the JCB Award for the year 2020, and his short story, Maoist, which was screen played as ‘Jallikatu,’ is the Indian official Oscar entry.

This is what I could pull out of the strands of the Moustache journey, a thick one as Vavachan’s…
Wishing I can string these words to Hareesh and ask him to write more…
Well, you can tell him too.


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