Forthright and critical, eloquent and witty, A. Madhaviah's oeuvre of essays and novels in Tamil and in English represent the spirit of nineteenth-century social reform in India at its best.
Standing squarely within the tradition of free enquiry in Indian thought, he assailed the rigid orthodoxies and superstitions, sectarian distrust, stultifying caste oppression, and above all, the deep-seated misogyny under patriarchy, which expressed itself in the horrific evils of child marriage and widow abuse.
No empty polemicist or literary poseur, Madhaviah's humanism was hammered out in the crucible of his own life as a family man and as a middle-level official under the British Raj.
In his efforts towards bringing about meaningful social change, he turned to Western Enlightenment ideas as also to his own heritage, notably the Upanishads and the Tirukkural.
Like all Madhaviah's novels, Muthumeenakshi is written in a vivid modern Tamil idiom, direct in its appeal to the emotion s, and leavened with piquant colloquialisms.
Denounced a hundred years ago for its outspokenness against the gender norms prevalent among the influential Brahmin caste, it nevertheless enjoyed great popularity and has deeply influenced successive generations of thinking Tamilians.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR:
Vasantha Suryaâ€™s articles, reviews, and poetry (The Stalk of Time and the Ballad of Budhni) have been on themes from everyday life. Her translations from Tamil include. R. Chudamaniâ€™s Yamini and a collection of Short stories-Contemporary Tamil short fiction.