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ആരാച്ചാർ Award winning novel AarachaarExecutioner is a story based on the Indian culture of caste and religion Set in Bengal it tells the story of a family of executioners with a long lineage beginning in the fourth century BC The protagonist of the novel Chetna is a strong and tenacious woman who struggles to inherit this professionAccording to noted literary critic M Leelavathy Aarachaar is one of the best literary works produced in Malayalam and follows the legacy of O V Vijayan's classic work Khasakkinte Itihasam The novel received the 2013 Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award It was also awarded the prestigious Odakkuzhal Award in 2013 and Vayalar Award in 2014

  • Paperback
  • 552 pages
  • ആരാച്ചാർ
  • K.R. Meera
  • Malayalam
  • 21 September 2014

About the Author: K.R. Meera

KR Meera is an Indian author who writes in Malayalam She won Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 2009 for her short story Ave MariaShe has also been noted as a screenplay writer of 4 serialsMeera was born in Sasthamkotta Kollam district in KeralaShe worked as a journalist in Malayala Manorama later resigned to concentrate on writing She is also a well known column writer in Malayalam

10 thoughts on “ആരാച്ചാർ

  1. says:

    Capital punishment is a sensitive uestion is it allowable for the state to kill somebody? On a purely metaphoric level most liberal people would say no But would your answer still be the same if the convict was say a sex offender who raped and tortured a girl to death? More so if she was known to you?Is justice involving the taking of a human life justified? Is killing by the state murder or justice? Is punishment justice or revenge? Is capital punishment a deterrent for crimes?All difficult uestions Most of us shy away from these I know I do but they have to be asked all the sameMeera does it and much through this novel However it is not a political polemic While asking these uestions the story digs down into our psyche to the subterranean depths where the archetypes lieAnd there the uestions asked are much basic and much difficult What does it mean to be a woman and a human being in today’s society?There are no easy answers Maybe there are no answers period they are not reuiredBecause the uestion is what is important Chetana Grddha Malik is a hangman's daughter and a potential hangwoman of the future as he has no male heirs other than the disabled Ramu Yatindranath Banerji is a convicted killer waiting for the hangman's noose a hanging in which Chetana will assist her father Phani Bhushan as India's first female executionerIt would have been all business as usual had not the TV channels got hold of it As with any controversial news item in contemporary India Banerji’s hanging becomes a national spectacle a chance to boost the TRP of the “reality” news channels Sanjiv Kumar Mitra of the CNC is the first to sink his predatory teeth into this juicy situation – and also into the beautiful and desirable Chetana He wants her to be the exclusive property of his channel on camera – and his off itAs the novel progresses and we move towards Yatindranath Banerji’s inevitable death Sanjiv and Chetana dance around a complicated concoction of lust filth deceit and death The ending when it finally comes after 500 pages is expected; yet fitting and devastating Meera is a terrific writer There is very little beauty in this novel; and there is a lot of ugliness That she has made it so absorbing so that one willfully endures so much unpleasantness is a tribute her skill as a wordsmithChetana’s hovel is situated on Neem Tala Ghat where people take their relatives to be cremated The novel has endless descriptions of dead bodies and mourning relatives narrated through her deadpan voice – interspersed with her father’s stories of his exploits as a hangman who has executed than four hundred people Among the people who are cremated there are murder victims too many of them young girls who have been raped mutilated and murdered by sexual predators like Yatindranath Banerji The narrative dances between two types of killing one by the state and one by the social deviants The narrator who is also the protagonist of the story does not take sides It seems as though Chetana just wants us to see it as it is through her eyes which has seen and absorbed a lot in twenty three yearsChetana’s home is also disturbingly full of the themes of pain and mutilation Her brother Ramu is a practically a vegetable – his limbs have been hacked off by the father of a convict Phani Bhushan hanged Phani Bhushan himself is a libertine freuently visiting Kolkata’s red light district Sona Gacchi His brother who stays with him is practically an invalid having been marked by the excruciating torture he suffered as a communist under The Emergency In this hell house the person Chetana is most attached to is her grandma who is than a century old – a crone figure who tells stories from myth legend and historyThe second theme is the “lust affair” it would be dishonest to call it a love affair between Chetana and Sanjiv The reporter makes no secret of his lust for her the first time he sees Chetana he tells her that ”I want to experience you at least once” The second time he sueezes her left breast This is highly symbolic IMO Kannagi the heroine of Silappadikaram burns down Madhura by tearing off her left nipple and flinging it at the city Later she is enshrined as an incarnation of the Goddess Durga But on this later The significant thing is that Chetana also lusts for Sanjiv and her left breast throbs every time she feels the hotsSanjiv Kumar Mitra who is a kleptomaniac needs Chetana physically as well as commercially He wastes no time in buying her time exclusively for his channel thus virtually owning her He wastes no time in marketing her as well as the misery of the murderer's and the victim's family He is a man without emotions only lust for riches for fame and for pleasures of the flesh and the hanging is only a studio production to raise the ratings for his channel As his family history is revealed towards the end of the novel we get an idea of what makes this complex creation tick Surprisingly the ethics of capital punishment is not discussed openly Rather the author cleverly presents it as A during Chetana's TV show her father's bombastic speeches to journalists justifying it and opinions of various characters both pro and con But the political subtext is very clear and most effective especially when various hangings from the stories told to her by her grandma are graphically described to us by ChetanaBut the most powerful theme is the undercurrent of frightening and bloodthirsty feminity which permeates the narrative – the punishing mother the toothed vagina that men have sublimated through their myths and stories and either locked up as the madwoman in the attic or elevated to a pedestal as goddess It is no accident that this novel is set in Bengal I feel as Durga’s fearsome dance of death is part of the Bengali psyche – and being from Kerala a state where women’s mysteries still manifest as an undercurrent in many festivals Thiruvathira being the prime example the author can very well appreciate itChetana can tie a hangman’s knot in seconds – she does that with her dupatta and uses it on would be molesters to great effect She feels connected to various legendary heroines of myth legend and history whether from her own family or otherwise who had used the power of the eternal feminine on hapless males the power of the soft seductress as well as that of the fierce Devi It is no coincidence that the earth from the front yard of the courtesans of Sona Gacchi is used to make the idols of the goddess for Durga Puja All the things described above makes this novel good What makes it great is its structureIndia has a great tradition of storytelling However the structure of Indian stories and myths are not linear in the traditional sense Starting with a central story the narrative meanders through a twisted path with many byways – and many a time the narrator takes detours Sometimes even the byways have byways branching off them It is uite common by the end of the story for the listener to be confused as to exactly where he is – but the bard keeps on singing and ultimately reaches the end tying up all the loose ends in the processThe Katha Sarith Sagara and the Mahabharata are two well known examples of the above techniue As one gets accustomed to the Indian timeless way of telling stories one starts not getting disturbed by the detours In fact one starts to savour them to relish them to enjoy each sub story which could be each made into an epic in its own right In fact many Mahabharata tales have become movies novels and plays in various Indian languagesThis is the structure Meera adopts and it is fascinating I have seen criticisms of the novel saying that it should have been edited down – and I strongly disagree Each of the chapters is an episode as well as a stirring tale in its own right and it is to be enjoyed as such India cannot be rushed So sit back in your chair ladies and gentlemen and travel along with this gorgeously terrifying executioner on the most terrifying and exhilarating journey of her lifeI guarantee that you will not regret it

  2. says:

    Chetna Now that's A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH OMG The strongest and mightiest female character ever in Malayalam literature atleast in my humble opinion An extraordinary book that deals with the topic of Capital Punishment the long and fascinating history of the Hangman family of the Grudha Malliks and so much The atmosphere it creates in the reader's mind is just so intruiging and at the same time so haunting relevant scathing brilliant and reveting The story is so well crafted and is filled with legends myths and historical backstories which fits so so well with the situations and ties the whole story together and forms that perfect final picture We get than we could ask for the fascinating history of Kolkota the 1200 year old epic legends of the Grudda Malliks stories stories and stories and that's uite an offer I can't refuse And this perfect juxtaposition of the myths and imaginative with the realistic is what makes it uniue and specialMeera so perfectly and effectively attacks and criticises the outrageous inappropriate and disgusting behaviour of today's media the attitude of the society towards women and the the lower class the traditional system in India at that time and even now of profession being based on one's cast and religion and the book covers so many areas like love sex death life karma fate life after death and is full of profound philosophical thoughts and views The characters are so solid and well built and are very interesting Phonibhushan Grudha Mallik Dhakkuma Sanjiv Kumar Mitra Manobendra Bose and CHETNA like the hilsa fish that swims against the current for thousands of miles to finally reach it's destiny her character alone is enough to make this a masterpiece A uniue book that deserves all the awards and praise it got I read the original Malayalam language edition but I believe the English translation is eually good Shortlisted for the South Asian Literary Award Hats off to KR Meera for this brilliant book and hoping to see works of her in the futureThanks for reading

  3. says:

    35Depressing grim powerhouse and yet beautifully craftedThe kind of book which shouldn't be kept on your shelf rather hanging from the roof with a noose around itIt was a difficult read because of extreme negativity of characters Had many sleepless nights due to thisWithin the main plot there are 45 50 short stories about hanging and deathUnbelievable descriptions of Kolkata coming from a Malayalam writer The writing is extraordinarily good I read the English translation 51 chapters and every chapter is packed with a punch Too bad I couldn't handle all that grimness Hated almost every charcterHighly recommended if you like dark and powerful writing

  4. says:

    Sheer brilliance manifesting as a very grim morose turbulent tale told with maximum impact upon readersThe story ofa 22 year old girl Chetana who is from a family of hangmen who practiced their trade from a time when Bengal or even Jesus Christ wasn't bornChetana is urged to take up the job of Hangwoman as her father is getting senile and the family needs a working memberAnd the Indian government is not too keen to provide her with that particular job which would really have gone to Ramu da her much elder brother for whom fate had nasty plansPhanibhushan her 88 year old father is a tough nut tocrackSanjeev Mitra the ever opportunistic news reporter finds Chetna and her family as a means of increasing his channel's TRPChetana and Sanjeev are attracted to each other not in a necessarily pleasant wayWith this background the scintillating tale unfoldsI felt like being given a crash course on hangmandship andthe history of Bengal region from historic times through Indian partition upto the present flavored with the personal histories of her ancestorsChetana is most easily one of the strongest women I have come across in fiction and Ramu da one of the most pitiableI would recommend this book to all people who love a grim taleand would advise the weak hearted to stay clearThis is one book that can remain with you and niggle at your innards for a long long timeMy reading buddies for this venture Gorab and Rebecca Thank you

  5. says:

    Review originally posted on A Skeptical ReaderHangwoman by K R Meera is a translated novel from India that opens with the main character being asked to take up the position of the first hangwoman of India The novel is about what it is to be a woman in a society where men dictate what happens to your life your body and your home The main character Chetna Grddha Mullick observes the way her life is shaped by the actions of her father and a journalist hell bent on possessing her body and timeAll the characters in the novel are utterly repulsive and untrustworthy the latter being also true of the main character I’m not opposed to reading about dislikable characters but there seems to be no rhyme or rhythm to any action or reaction that plays out When Chetna first meets the journalist intending to cover the experience of her first hanging Sanjeev Kumar Mitra he tells her ‘I want to fuck you at least once’ and steals their family coin Despite the shocking way in which this meeting occurs Chetna is intensely attracted to Sanjeev and continuously seeks his attention even after his assaults and insults persist There’s absolutely no explanation or reasoning for this and in the same breath that she hates him for abusing her and her family she also craves his affection in ways that completely baffle meFurther in the beginning of every chapter the reader is bombarded with a myriad of stories myths and histories Even as an Indian with the ability to distinguish and pronounce names phrases and terms the sheer count of stories thrown in this book is suffocating Being that the writer is from Kerala but writes the story set in Bengal it seems she spent months researching Bengal and decided she’s going to fit in every single sentence from her notes into the novel It’s unnecessary it considerably weighs the book down from its accomplishments and as I predict will discourage many readers from finishing the novelThat novel also has than a few repetitive chapters and there are large portions of the novel that can be completely omitted without losing sight of any plot movement To be blunt only the first and final uarters of the book are worth reading Everything in between can be skipped and the reader would have no trouble absorbing the purpose of the novel The first uarter builds up a good setting even with the weak characterizations and the final uarter contains some beautifully written scenes of Chetna’s moments of self realization—scenes that in my opinion have a lot to offer to the contemporary battles of feminism in IndiaIn the end I think Hangwoman has some very thoughtful moments of feminist introspection but the poor way in which the characters’ motivations are handled and the excessive amount of chapters will likely it keep it from reaching many readers I can’t honestly say I’d recommend it to most people unless you’re really keen on reading a translated Indian novel and there’s no other in sight

  6. says:

    The Hangwoman Arachar in malayalam is one of the grimmest yarns you will ever read Chetna Mullick is a heroine you'll remember for long and also recall how many relatives she hadA tale that had a hanging of a rapist as a backdrop and world's first Hangwoman is bound to have a lot to say on death 70% of the book has tales subplots history mythology of hangings victims introduced through their hangmen The author slips in a few real hangings and stories that keeps you guessing which is which22 year old chetna is appointed a Hangwoman to help her 88 year old hangman father for a hanging with a lot of media attention Sanjeev Kumar is a media hawk who preys on the girl's feelings sexually abusing her too and the dad’s greed to get an exclusive All the men almost invariably harass or underwrite ChetnaFrom 80% onwards the book flies and gets the readers rooting for Chetna By the time I reached there I already had encountered countless pointless stories and needlesS tragedies that I had given the book a mega serial statusThe book has covered Kolkata in all its glories Some of the stories give you goosebumpsPingalakeshni manasa As too many relatives can spoil a party so too can too many relative historiesNo mean effort the writing and the reading

  7. says:

    Took me almost a month to read this book But boy What a ride it was I consider it as an accomplishment of sorts as I read the Malayalam original The story revolves around Chethana the hang woman her musings and her narrations from her vast store of ancestral memories Though some of the stories were outright cruel loved most of them especially Pingalakeshinis The mood of the book is that of pathos and there is a feministic undertone Though initially I did not like any of the characters in the end I found myself rooting for Chethu

  8. says:

    The Gruddha Mallick family got the position of an executioner as a legacy which the family marks out from four hundred years ago Mallick is the only family who has witnessed many incidences which makes a note in the Indian history Chetna Mallick belongs to such a family Chetna’s father Phonibhushan who too followed the family work of execution has hanged than 450 convicts till death To continue this family legacy there is no male member in the family At this scenario twenty two year old Chetna is appointed as the first woman executioner in the country as the successor to her fatherThough Chetna takes the service as executioner; a shocking turn of events results in a murder within the family a savage crime that could result in Chetna having to hang a Gruddha Mallick The lurid pleasures of voyeurism and the brutal ironies of violence are kept in agile balance as the drama of Chetna’s life hurtles to its inevitable climaxThe Aarachar was very intense and strong and sometimes unpalatable in its own way But it haunts the readerI liked the book very much mainly because of the narrationand the interconnected stories of innumerable deaths and history of executioners but I don't know how many other people will like this But the truth is that those stories made this a good bookThe criticism on modern journalismsarcastic remarks of the author regarding the social obligationsrules of modern day human beingsbe it a manwoman are all excellent in this bookIn preface it is said that it is a modern classic which is absolutely true in every senseThe character portrayal and the description of kolkata with its culture is awesome Kolkata is captured in all its glory and decadence through out the pagesEven though the story drags a bitwhich have been rectified by a proper editingI will recommend this novel to my friendswhich is a worth reading

  9. says:

    This magnificent piece of work is a must read milestone in contemporary Malayalam literature Intertwined by myths history ancestral stories detailed depictions of Kolkata streets and the inner depths of the female protagonist this book is going to live for centuries The popularity this book receives is not over hyped but well deserved

  10. says:

    I'm still in Kolkata I think It's crazy how this book stays with you long after you've finished it and even moved on to the next book I think the protagonist in this book is as much the city as it is Chetna Grddha Mullick I'm not going to give a synopsis of the story that's not how reviews work IMOFirst off 3 cheers to the translator J Devika for a stupendous job of translating this from Malayalam Not even for a minute did it feel like a translated work which is a distraction for me esp if I know the original language which in this case I do She's got the nuances and the evocative nature of the prose spot on For once I didn't really mind not reading the originalHangwoman is a story of stories The history that permeates every second of the lives of the Grddha Mullick family finds a way to enter our world too We lose track of time of space and sometimes our self I loved the way K R Meera has used the hangman and his daughter as master storytellers and spun tale after tale of courage perseverance revenge betrayal and every other human emotion that has changed the course of history It's not just the hangwoman we read about it is also about all those before her who moved through their times so it all culminates in a single moment when she has to decide whether or not to pull the lever I was surprised to know that the author was never a resident of Kolkata and she merely visited the city a couple of times for the sake of the book It does not read like that The glimpses we get of the Bengali way of life authentic or not I wouldn't know is hard hitting and the imagery is unforgettable Why then have I given only 4 stars and not 5? Wellbecause of the textbook K R Meera heroine being a wee bit unbelievable I had this problem with Gospel of Yudas too the female protagonist in both books are alike they have extremely strong feelings towards the man and there just seems no basis on why and how the feelings got so powerful Somehow for me it doesn't seem real Maybe it's an exaggeration it's perfectly fine to do that in a work of fiction but for me personally the lack of plausibility when juxtaposed against the reality of the supporting narrative somehow makes it seem hollow and wellobviously exaggerated Might just be me That said I liked Chetna better than PremaHangwoman will always be a memorable read for me and it's arguably one of the best works in Indian writing

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