WINGS IN THE VOID
Translated from Tamil by
“A beautiful and ineffectual angel beating his luminous wings against the void in vain”
—Mathew Arnold on PB Shelley
It is not clear what Mathew Arnold meant when he made the above observation about the younger romantic, P.B.Shelley, but the quotation finding its place at the beginning of the novel certainly serves as a prelude to Wings in the void” originally written in Tamil by Indira Parthasarathy and translated into English by janaki Venkataraman.
There isn’t much of a story to speak of, as it deals more with the unfolding of the character of Kasturi, the protagonist who moves out from Kumbakonam, a small town in Tamilnadu to Delhi of the 1960s for seeking fresh pastures. His interaction with people in his office as well as his exposure to Delhi society instead of contributing to his growth only leads him to confusion and degradation, a morass he finds difficult to escape from. His association and relationship with, Meena Parande, who works in his office takes a different turn as it progresses and leaves him directionless as well as with a punctured ego but he knows that it is of his own making. However, he is more assertive in his dealings at the official level refusing to compromise on his principles and doesn’t think twice before quitting his job or forgoing the perks.
Kasturi doesn’t hibernate for long because he lands with a government job as an Advisor obtained through Asha, ( the wife of Surjit Singh, a man with high connections) a woman of questionable character. Kasturi is thoroughly disillusioned with its work culture — political, bureaucratic and moral corruption reigning at the highest levels.
The style of the novel is too pedestrian and some of the sentences are quite distracting in places like “ the speed with which she “demolished “the food ’(pg.51) or “in that case this lady is related to every man”(pg.99).
However, the saving grace is the touch of humour one finds in the novel. For instance, the first day of his arrival Kasturi wishes to visit Cannaught Palace and wonders which of the names was right — Connaught Place or Cannaught Circle? He decides to ask a young man (who looks like a Tamilian to him ) walking towards him. He surmises that Tamilian youth were well known for their collection of useless information and his assumption proves right as his informer regales him with a lot of details about the building and the builder as well (pg.13).
What could also be said in favour of the novel is the way stark reality has been presented with regards to our national leaders and our national characteristic—giving advice to others.
There appears to be a similarity between the novel “Once an actress” by jayakanthan and Wings in the void by Indira Parthasarathy in that their female characters come out as strong and assertive individuals whereas the males emerge as weak and fickle minded.
n.meera raghavendra rao