In this era when social media plays a vital role to voice common people’s opinion, when the difference between the right and the wrong has become so subtle that one finds it difficult to find out, using the word ‘morality’ in the title of a book is sure to raise your curiosity. So, Tomichan Matheikal’s debut publication, The Nomad Learns Morality was pretty successful in making me feel intrigued by the name.
I’ve been following the author’s blog for quite a long time. His articles on myriad subjects reflect deep intellect and, a penetrating understanding of religion as it forms the life. Yes, whether we are ready to accept the fact or not, religion is an inseparable part of our being. It’s easy to say, “I’m not religious”, but an extensive viscera of one’s day to day activities and existence would clearly reveal the religious attachment. One can’t exist without it.
Now, why am I ranting about it? Because, The Nomad Learns Morality, a compilation of 33 stories, deals in an ingenious manner, with the effects of religion, mythology, history and Gods (be it Allah, Jesus or Ram) in our lives.
The book though has no distinct parts, but the readers can categorize the stories as mythological and modern. The book starts with the story of Ahalya, the first one of the Panchasati or Panchakanya, the extolled five women of Hindu epics and mythology. She was turned into a stone by the curse of her husband after having a coital relation with the king of Gods, Indra. The story has been told from a different perspective, the delusions of being and, the morality of accepting one’s own truth.
In the stories, “Sarayu’s Sorrow” and “Snakes and Ladders”, some pertinent questions have been raised, towards humanity and morality of the human beings. If we consider Lord Rama as the most iconic of the mortals with wisdom and perseverance galore, then why some consider his act of abandoning his wife, Sita as a floundered one? Was Rama himself was clear to his conscience? Or he was just a marionette in the hands of Destiny?
“The Autumn of the Patriarch” once again raises the controversy between truth, morality, politics, and dharma. Which one is greater and is it actually possible to separate one from the other? Is it right to wager the wife in the name of Dharma? Is it virtuous to abnegate personal responsibility for a patriarch like Bhishma? The questions asked by Draupadi thousands of years ago, are still unanswered and shall remain so until the society would unlearn infantilizing women!
The thirst for knowledge is insatiable, even God and Satan were eager to find beyond. Was it the reason Eve was tempted to commit the “Original Sin”? An interesting perspective worth pondering. The story of the city of Sodom, Lot, and his daughters asks the same question in line with morality. Can an incest give birth to peaceful future generations or do the seeds of sin remain instilled in them, the “Children of Lust”?
The author has probed deeper and, asks the questions which might have stirred every logical mind. The stories not only make you mull over harder on a few things but also help to come out of parochialism. The greatness, Achilles, Alexander and Aurangzeb, somehow, they all concur at one point- to be buried and forgotten.
Then what is that makes one immortal? Embracing death without an iota of regret? Perhaps, the story,“Worship” has an answer.
There are stories that speak of the modern times, the virtues and vices. “Mayank Passes” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” delineate the condition of the educational system in modern society. A residential school with some stiff-necked recalcitrant students is the subject of the second one. The story has a remarkable ending.
Matheikal has raised questions showing the chutzpah of asking even those considered as controversial. Most of the times there exists a lacuna between logical thinking and imagination when it comes to stories integrating mythology and history. He has fulfilled the gap, in very few words, he has pointed out where we fall short. Nobody is spared. The beauty and boldness of his narration lie in the simplicity and subtlety. Never, not for once, he seems to be vociferous. Yet, the message is there.
Those who want a different read other than hunky-dory love stories, can safely lay your hands on The Nomad Learns Morality. Strongly recommended.