A 'Historical Event'
in the Kingdom of Travancore,
late October 1939
The Great Depression and the Revenue Settlement of 1929 made the life of the farmers, tenant cultivators and agricultural laborers miserable. Emigration to Malaysia (Kayar, ch. 98 ff.).
First general strike of coir factory workers in Alleppey.
Socialists (communists) win control of the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee.
1st October 1936
C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyer is appointed Dewan (Prime Minister) of Travancore
12 November 1936
The Temple Entry Proclamation allows temple entry to all Hindu communities.
Gandhi visits his followers in Travancore.
late August 1938
Neyyattinkara Firing: The police opens fire on a March (jatha) of 20,000 people led by Akkamma Cheriyan (1909-1982). Students agitation, schools and colleges are closed.
Second World War begins.
late October 1939
Sir C.P. Shashtiabdapoorthy (60st birthday) Celebrations.
Schools and colleges have been closed. Communist students chop the nose of C.P.'s statue erected at a central crossroads in Trivandrum. This event is recounted in Kayar, ch. 102, where the two most salient characters, Viswanathan and Manikanthan, represent respectively N. Sreekantan Nair and Thakazhi himself. In the diegesis (la diégèse) of Kayar, ie., in the space-time of the story, the main culprit, Viswanathan, Manikanthan's close friend from childhood, scorns Manikanthan for not joining the attack: "You coward!" (a real fact in their life history but which took place when they were students in Trivandrum in the early thirties).
From a historical point of view, the late October 1939 attack simply prefigures the 25 July 1947 assassination attempt. From a literary point of view, Thakazhi, exploiting the repetition pattern linking the two events which in itself has an epic dimension (*), creates a typical example of deixis shift or metalepsis (métalepse), ie., of transgression of the boundaries between the space-time of the story (fiction), the space-time of history (two different historical events in 1939 and 1947), and the space-time of the writer (his memories of his college life and socialist student activities in the early thirties).
(Census, 1941: Travancore pop. 6.1 millions. 40% Lower-caste Hindus, 32% Christians, 21% Higher-caste Hindus, 7% Muslims)
Quit India Movement. In Kuttanad, food shortages, strikes in the paddy-fields, and foundation of the Karshaka Thozhilali Sangham (a farm workers' association).
The Punnapra and Vayalar communist uprising.
25 July 1947
Assassination attempt on C. P. Ramaswamy Aiyar, the Dewan of Travancore, who consequently resigns his position. One of the culprits, N. Sreekantan Nair (who takes refuge in Bombay to escape police capture), was Thakazhi's close friend from childhood and, at the end of a distinguished political career (in communist governments from 1957 onward), will eventually be the English translator of Kayar.
15 August 1947
Independance of India.
30 January 1948
Assassination of Gandhi.
(*) Cf. Attipat K. Ramanujan [1929-1993], Repetition in the Mahâbhârata , repr. in [A. K. Ramanujan,] The Collected Essays of A. K. Ramanujan, New Delhi, Oxford UP, 1999.