The Subalterns Speak
ANGALIYAT: A GUJARATI NOVEL by Joseph Macwan Ravani Prakashan, Anand, 1987, 422 pp., 55.00
July-August 1987, volume 11, No 4

‘Angaliyat’ in Gujarati means the child of the former husband, or more precisely, the child of the former husband who follows the mother, holding her finger (‘Angali’), when she weds another man. The title of the novel is suggestive of the love that unites the two main characters of the novel—Tiho, a weaver of a small village, Ratnapur, and Methi, a woman of the same community from another village, Shilapur. Though Tiho and Methi never marry, Gokal, Methi’s son, is known as an ‘angaliyat’. Gokal not only uses Tiho’s name as his father but also begins to acquire, towards the end of the novel, the strength of Tiho’s character and thus becomes in a way his true heir. But what is more important perhaps is the social and political backdrop against which the story of Tiho and Methi unfolds. The novel focuses on the structures of power that implicate their lives and are responsible for annihilating every possibility of their marriage and for all their suffering. Tiho and Methi belong to the so called lower caste of weavers. At another level they too are ‘angaliyats’. An ‘angaliyat’, no matter how well accepted in the private space of the family, is never totally reintegrated in the public space of society and has, therefore a socially inferior status. As Bhavankaka, an old man of experience and wisdom tells Tiho, their whole community is constituted and treated as an ‘angaliyat’, a sort of step child, by the so called upper caste communities.

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