Sucharita Sengupta
OUT IN THE MOONLIGHT by By Perumal Murugan. Translated from the Tamil and illustrations by Ashok Rajagopalan Tulika, Chennai, 2023, 24 pp., INR 215.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

Out In the Moonlight is the adaptation of a chapter from noted Tamil author Perumal Murugan’s book Thondra Thunai, published in the English language as Amma. The story is based on the author’s recollection of his mother’s life. This book recounts a night in the life of his mother when his brother is five years old and the author himself is a ten-month-old baby, as shared with the author by his mother.
Amma is a farmer, worrying about her home, children and the state of her fields after the harvest. She wants to clear her field of stubble, but like all mothers doing countless tasks, hardly finds time during the day. On a moonlit light, she sets off with both her children, walking through the village, braving narrow paths, and finally reaching her field. She must work but has to keep an eye on her children. Her older child helps her out in the task even as he plays with a stray dog, ensuring that his infant brother is comfortably asleep, so that the mother can work in the field throughout the night.
This tale of a night is presented as an adventure, but in reality is a narration of the difficult life of Murugan’s mother. The travails of an impoverished woman combine with the tenderness and anxieties of a mother’s heart, extending not just to her own children, but to farm animals and birds. For her older child though, it is an adventure by the moonlight, and a chance to play the night away.
The book is a wonderful entry point for young readers into the literary works of Perumal Murugan. Designed for readers around the age of 5 years, the adaptation is simple yet suffused with joy. The illustrations will fire any reader’s imagination, and more so that of a child. Apart from English, this children’s adaptation has been made available by the publisher in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali. The story will delight readers, as much as it will develop their sensibilities towards those marginalized in society.