The Solitary Sprout is a treat to read. This will come as no surprise to those familiar with Chudamani’s books. Like the others, this book contains no violence or sex, preaches no doctrine, upholds no morals……just twenty simple tales of the everyday life of mostly Tamilian families.
That being so, readers would be justified in expecting a certain amount of repetition in the stories; but it is not so. Each and every one of the twenty tales is different, dealing with various but familiar aspects of life as it is lived—a microcosm; a cross-section of life as it exists. There is the absolutely selfless cook who cheerfully supports her ungrateful sons fully aware there will be no return; the selfish artist who, after deserting his family, discovers that he is no Gauguin; the adolescent, in love with his teacher; the stepmother who forces herself to overcome her dislike of her husband’s son; the philandering husband who mourns his wife’s death in his mistress’s arms even as he anguishes over his loss; two tales of patriarchy, of unmitigated male chauvinism, repulsed in very different ways by seemingly docile, subservient wives; and more. All are well crafted, psychologically true and believable.
Chudamani was one of our earlier feminists, though never a strident one. The women who appear in The Solitary Sprout testify to her understanding and sympathy. Mature self-confident women living the lives they want with dignity and assurance. Many women, mostly middle aged, following the dictates of their heart, not conforming to any rule of societal behaviour, comfortable in their own skin. Acceptance, consideration and strength influence their lives.