Kalyanaraman Durgadas does a wonderful job with his debut novel Songs of the Cauvery. This book is set in south India of the 18th and 19th century. Panju is the protagonist of this story. He is battered as a child. Hence he takes up to wrestling and becomes a strong man. His sister Janaki wants to complete her education and then think about marriage. Panju, however is married young and his child bride will join his company after attaining puberty.
Panju goes to the big city and is drawn first towards a devdasi Ranjitham and then towards freedom struggle. Jayanti falls in love with a Christian man in her class but can’t think of marrying him for she has family responsibilities to attend to. Her parents are old and ill. Panju’s wife has now come of age and stays with them. Panju has become a revolutionary and is wanted by the police. Jayanti has no option but to become son of the house. Panju is assigned the task of killing the erstwhile British Collector. In a thrilling climax he kills not one but two British officers and even takes away his own life.
All the freedom struggle stories that we have read and seen were set in the north India. The South Indian setting in this novel makes the novel a refreshing read. The way the author carves his characters is absolutely brilliant. They stand dangling in front of your eyes when you are reading the novel and even after you have finished it. The author succeeds in writing a believable fiction story and that is the reason one can relate to it. The track of Jayanti going to Pondicherry in search of Panju was not properly developed. I also did not understand why Panju decides to take his own life at the end. Yet this novel is refreshing, thrilling and entertaining. Go and read it.