When one is ready to grasp, the book appears! So was it with me and the famed Khasaakinte Ithihaasam. Hailing from Palakkad, the places mentioned in the narrative, the charm of life in rustic villages, and the typical Palakkad dialect – that of Ezhavas and the Tamil laced Malayalam of Rowthers in particular – all were a veritable treat for the book lover in me and something I could connect with, being brought up in a sleepy Palakkad village.
Ravi, the protagonist in the novel, comes to Khasak (Thasrak is the actual name of the village which is in Kodumbu Panchayath in Palakkad) with an anarchist past to atone for the profanities committed. Such is his guilt that he drops out of an undergraduate honours course in spite of being chosen for higher studies in Princeton University, in a quest for a spiritual life. He starts a new life setting up a single teacher school and lives with the village folk, a multi religious community. Despite the new life, the dichotomies still drive his life. He instills the love of learning in students but also learns that there is no escape from the relentless dictates of Karma.
The rustic life portrayed is charming and magical. The characters are all drawn with such finesse – be it the retarded Appukili, the village Maulavi Alla Pitcha, the orphan Nizam Ali who later dons the garb of Khaliyar, the village beauty Maimuna, the Hindu fundamentalist Sivaraman Nair, the toddy tapper, Kuppuvachan, the village tailor Madhavan Nair and many others including the students at school.
Khasak beautifully interweaves myth and reality, the sacred and the profane. It is a peek into the web of life in a simple village. Its word play is replete with its lyrical intensity as well as black humour. No wonder then that this is a masterpiece in and literally divided Malayalam Literature into pre-Khasak and post-Khasak eras.