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Sahitya Akademi Award: Neervazhi Padooum Chronicles Kongu’s Barbers

Celebrating Devibharathi's Literary Achievement and Cultural Exploration

Tamil writer Devibharathi’s novel, Neervazhi Padooum, has been honored with the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for 2023. At 65, Devibharathi gracefully acknowledges the recognition. And anticipate that the Sahitya Akademi award will push his work into the diverse languages across the country.

Neervazhi Padooum, a phrase derived from a Purananuru poem dating back to the Sangam age. It encapsulates the essence of the novel. Translated as “a float that sails on the way of the water .”That symbolizes life’s journey, navigating the course predetermined by destiny.

Devibharathi, who spent a decade with the literary magazine Kalachuvadu. He worked for seven years as its editor-in-chief, unveiling the lives of the Kudi Navithar, the community barbers in Tamil Nadu’s Kongu region. The narrative, unwoven through an unnamed character, embarks on a journey triggered by the demise of Kaaru Mama. That reflects on memories interwoven with contemporary life.

Kaaru Mama’s life is marked by the elopement of his wife and subsequent mental declinẹ. It serves as a canvas to depict the struggles of the barbers. Despite their dangerous existence at the mercy of caste Hindus, the novel transcends the narrative of oppression. Instead, Devibharathi’s language skillfully captures the flow of life, akin to water effortlessly moving downstream.

Literary connoisseur G. Kuppuswamy notes that the oppression faced by characters like Kaaru Mama is self-inflicted, with external factors playing a minimal role. Kaaru Mama’s life becomes an anthology of betrayals, yet he stoically endures, offering no grievances.

The portrayal of the mourners’ song at Kaaru Mama’s death introduces an element of magic realism. Devibharathi beautifully articulates the mourning process. And highlighting the respect accorded to women proficient in this art. Their mournful songs create a poignant ambiance, sweeping everyone into the emotional tide.

Devibharathi’s work transcends a mere narrative; it becomes a cultural exploration. The Kudi Navithar of Kongu are not merely barbers but accomplished singers. A narrates tales through folk tunes, distinguishing themselves even among other barber communities in the state. Their contribution extends beyond hairdressing; they perform on nagaswaram and deliver auspicious songs in marriages, imparting blessings to newlyweds.

As Devibharathi receives the Sahitya Akademi award, there is hope that this recognition will not only elevate his novel to diverse linguistic landscapes. But the award also shed light on the rich cultural tapestry of the Kudi Navithar. It, in turn, offers readers a glimpse into their unique traditions and stories.

In conclusion, Neervazhi Padooum stands not just as a literary work but as a bridge, connecting readers to the lives, struggles, and rich cultural heritage of the Kudi Navithar community in the Kongu region.

Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma is a seasoned Political Journalist with a deep passion for Indian Politics. With over a decade of experience in the field, he has established himself as a trusted… More »

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