When I first saw this title on Uthaya Sankar SB’s Facebook wall, I had no idea it was “panchayat” as in the rural subjected Tamil movies I’ve watched over the years. Imagine my surprise! Panchayat: Edisi Khas (2012) becomes my first real Bahasa Malaysia novel, besides those condensed ones I had read during school days.
As chapters run in from the different points of view of characters, I saw a bit of myself in each of the characters and realised also that I see many of these characters in my everyday living. Uthaya proves that an author must not only write well, but sculpt, design and paint as well! Such awesomely created characters! What I like best about his style is that he allows me to evaluate the characters based on my understanding without him being the judge; though being the creator.
I referred to this novel as a “movie” to some friends. How can I not? Every second I was reading, there was a movie unconsciously being played at the back of my mind. Such detailed descriptions of the characters; now I have an image for each character stuck to my head. Their personalities; Uthaya did not say it per se, rather he showed it all throughout the story. Eventually, this made me go back to previous pages for checks and got me thinking a lot. The storyline is so coherently organised that I was forced to keep reading the subsequent chapters.
If you’re looking for a light read, I suggest you don’t do this book. Panchayat: Edisi Khas is a thinking man’s treasure. With an array of themes, ethics, perspectives, and insights dished out, this will not be a lazy read. That being said, I love the way he tells such a dense story effortlessly with much ease and simplicity in language. Anyone can read it with understanding at surface level; but whether or not you grasp the depth of the story is a different question all together. Here and there, I noticed tinges of sarcasm that inadvertently reminded me of real-life situations.
Filled with cultural notions, I thought it to be a great venue for readers of other cultures to get to know the Indian culture (or Hindu at certain parts) more closely. I also loved the way he named each chapter aptly; with 'Ahimsa', 'Thandira Nari', 'Maramanden', 'Attan', 'Mulastanam', 'Mundani', 'Trisula', 'Kaali Devi' and 'Madurai Kaala' being some of my favourites.
This novel is to be read with an open mind. No expectations. No presumptions. Symbolic. Metaphorical. Brilliantly written. Meticulously planned. Boldly illustrated.