Title: Beneath the Clouds and Coconut Leaves
Author: Moncy PothenGenre: Cultural Fiction Publisher: American Book Publishing
"Beneath the Clouds and Coconut Leaves" is Author Moncy Pothen’s first novel. The story is set in a village by the fictitious name of Brahmapuran in the lush colorful Indian State of Kerala. In this promising work, Pothen portrays with perfect ease the day-to-day affairs of a kaleidoscope of interesting personas; a mixed bag of good and bad apples, who are at once as predictable, depressingly backward, as they are exotic.
Arjunan, the central character, is an ex-convict who’s been jailed for his radical political views. Arjunan’s only fault, however, is that he so fervently wishes to propel his community into an era of social maturity and equality; and to this end vows to rid his people of all kinds of social ills such as the evils of the oppressive age-old caste system, modern day corruption, lying politicians and greedy landlords. But the way Arjunan chooses to fight his war, he later realizes as he falls into the clutches of a violent rebel network, is anything but sensible. So when Arjunan is finally released from prison he returns to a village that’s anything but grateful for his sacrifices.
Instead of being welcomed as a hero who fought for his people’s rights he is greeted with hostility, treated like a fool and bombarded with accusations, slander, physical abuse, and worst, falls victim to an overzealous villager who stabs him in the dark of night. However, all is not lost, and having tasted the bitter pill of his earlier unbridled enthusiasm, Arjunan soon learns to redirect his energies in a way that’s more in sync with the environment in which he lives.
With the help of his adopted brother and confidante, he once again immerses himself in the lives of his neighbors and fellow villagers. However, instead of arms, heated slogans and terrifying methods as means of persuasion, he now learns to take a more tactful approach. And it is in this sane calm milieu that he soon grows and finds the real gems of his village; notably a group of a younger generation of women, who are educated and forward looking; and it’s through the energies of this association that Arjunan is soon able to reach his goals of social justice and equality.
Reading "Beneath the Clouds and Coconut Leaves", one can not help but reflect on the kind of situation that more often than not plunges well-meaning social activists, such as Author Pothen’s hero, into the often troubled waters of mindless radicalism.
Today, we hear so much about terrorists, be they Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, etc. Author Pothen’s novel explains in a logical manner as to how and why such good-intentioned individuals are driven to such extremes. Through the pages of this balanced novel we learn a very important lesson: There are no quick fixes to any social illness, however dire the condition; at the end of the day, it’s perseverance, patience, prayer and true understanding of the situation at hand, and not half-baked reprisals, that will do the job.
Author Pothen should be applauded on his ability to handle such revolutionary ideals as social enlightenment and welfare issues in such a backwater setting; a rather laid-back rural community where change is frowned upon and things can only move at a snail’s pace. Linguistically, the book should delight all with its generous imagery and plethora of picturesque descriptions. The kaleidoscope of exotic characters, Hindus, Muslims and Christians, living side by side in peace and amity, also adds to the overall warmth of the novel.
Moncy Pothen is an accountant by profession. He lives and works in the United Arab Emirate of Sharjah. He is at this moment hard at work on his next writing project.