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Odiyan

Odiyan by P Kannankutty

Blurb:

നമ്മുടെ കാഴ്ചയില്‍ നിന്നു മറഞ്ഞു പോകുന്ന നിരവധി സംസ്കാരങ്ങളുണ്ട് പക്ഷേ നാം അതു ശ്രദ്ധിക്കാറില്ല. കാണാറുമില്ല. പരുത്തിപ്പുള്ളി ഗ്രാമത്തില്‍ ഒരു പറത്തറയും അവിടെ പറയകുടുംബങ്ങളും. അവരെ ചുറ്റിപ്പറ്റി ദൈവികവും മാന്ത്രികവും നീചവും നിഗൂഢവുമായ ഒരുപാട് കഥകളുണ്ടായിരുന്നു.

[A rough translation: Although many cultures keep disappearing from our society, we don’t realize it or pay attention to them. The village of Paruthippulli, a Paraya thara (settlement) there, the families that live in that thara, and the many divine, magical, vile, and mysterious stories about them.]

Thoughts:

As the author P Kannankutty explains in this video, he does not know any odiyan. This book is based on hearsay accounts and imagination. 
Kannankutty says that odiyans, who are from the Paraya community, change into the shape of animals, such as cats, bulls, snakes, etc. The animal they turn into may have some imperfection, by which they can be recognized. For example, the bull they turn into may not have a tail.
They also perform odi, a form of black magic, but never for personal reasons. Instead, they use it to help others, largely to settle personal scores. However, according to Kannankutty, odiyans were not villainous or negative characters. They were a part of  society.
The book’s story is set at a time when people lived in caste-based settlements or ‘tharas’. Although they are supposed to be valued for their role in society, the two odiyans in this book are sad, cursed characters because of their unique circumstances and the effect of changing times.
The other characters too do not have much joy in their respective lives. I prefer books with some sort of triumph or happiness for at least some of them, if not all. That being said, I liked this book despite its overwhelming sadness. 
I have heard many tales about odiyans from my mother and grandparents. So, the premise of this book was not new to me. I am also conversant with many customs, rituals, and ways of living mentioned in the book. 
Moreover, I could see shades of familiar faces in many of the characters. The descriptions of the land, the rituals, and the general milieu also reminded me of my ancestral home and its surroundings.

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