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Abachurina Post Office
By K. P. Poorna Chandra Tejasvi
Pustakaprakashana, Mysore, First published in 1973. 4th reprint 1999, P. 124, Rs. 50

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Reviewed by Chandra Holm.

I am glad of the day when I decided to pick up Abachurina Post Office, a collection of Kannada short stories by Poornachandra Tejasvi. I had of course heard of the award winning movies, one based on the title story and the other on ‘Tabarana Kathe’ another story in the collection. Abachurina Post Office is a slim volume of only 124 pages. Apart from the stories mentioned above, it contains 5 other stories, all written between 1968 and 1974. The story, ‘Avanati’, is also included in ‘Shatamanada Sanna Kathegalu’ ((Kannada)Short Stories of the Century) edited by S. Diwakar. The collection is priceless not only because it contains all these milestone setting stories from Kannada literature, but also because of its preface in which Tajasvi calls for writers to abandon the ‘navya’ (modern) movement (one of whose pioneers was U. R. Ananthamurthy of the ‘Samskara’ fame) and to seek new directions.

Abachurina Post Office is set in interior Karnataka. The stories span a wide range of themes. The title story gave me the feeling that time has had no effect on the life style of the people of these regions. It is a time when post offices were being opened, when hardly anybody in the town knew how to read and write English. That Bobanna could do that, and agreed to work – temporarily - in the post office for one hour in the morning, and one hour in the evening were the reasons for the post office to come to Abachuru, to be opened in Bobanna’s mother-in-law’s house. The humorous style Tejasvi adapts in telling the story of what it means to have a post office in the town, only emphasizes the tragic loneliness of Bobanna who finally becomes a victim of his loneliness and of the selfishness of his mother-in-law. Unsupported by everybody, even by his own wife, Bobanna turns violent at the end of the story, and leaves his family, the post office, and the town, to disappear in the darkness.

‘Avanati’ (Deterioration) is the story of Surachar, who was once a good sculptor, and who has now taken up to doing all kinds of things because nobody in the village appreciates his art. He is the middleman who bargains on other’s behalf and strikes deals – be it a bull, be it a bridegroom -, he is also the village quack doctor. When all the babies born to the beautiful Gowri, wife of Subbaiah die, it is Surachar who suggests a remedy. That Gowri should be brought to him to be cured, that there is a blue vein within her breast in which worms live, that as long as these worms thrive, no baby born to Gowri and fed on the mother’s milk would survive. He suggests that he will get rid of the worms by burning them with red hot turmeric roots. What happens when Gowri, who is the very personification of beauty, is brought to be cured by Surachar whose wife Yashoda with her hanging breasts and hollow eyes is the very image of the village goddess, Maari, is left to the reader’s imagination.

Kubi and Iyala is the story of the doctor Kubera and his struggles to educate the people of the town, his hopeless struggles to cure them of their superstitious beliefs, one of which leads to the shocking murder of the young Iyala. In Tukkoji, Tejasvi tells the story of a tailor and his married life, of how the couple make their own child a pawn in playing out their differences. Dare devil Mustapha comes as a surprise in this collection as it is set in a college with mainly Hindu students. A muslim student joins the college, and how he is finally accepted as one of them is the core of the story.

‘Tabarana Kathe’ (Tabara’s story) is another gem of a story in this collection. It sets out to show how bureaucracy plagues the lives of ordinary people, how simple people like Tabara end up mad, unable to cope up with the working of this machinery.

It is a pleasure to read Tejasvi. His style is lucid and succinct. Though there is much to think about between the lines, the style is not hampered by of any kind of artificial construction. The story is told in a plain but effective way. I also felt that the writer is part of the lives that are portrayed in these stories. The characters move him, fascinate him. He does not mock at them, neither does he adapt the tone of a moral teacher. The characters that I met here are very realistic. It was while reading these stories that I realized how much of this realism is absent in most of the much acclaimed books by Indian writers that one reads these days.

In short, the stories in ‘Abachurina Post office’ are simply wonderful.

About the Author of the book: Poornachandra Tejsavi, son of the great Kannada poet, Kuvempu was born in 1938 in Shimoga district in Karnataka. After getting his M. A. degree he took up farming, and lives now in Chikkamagaluru district. Tejasvi has published a number of novels (Carvallo, Chidambara Rahasya, Svarupa), dramas (Yamala Prasne), short stories (Abachurina Post Office, Huliyurina Sarahaddu), and poems (Svagata Lahari). He is the recipient of the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award as well as the Central Government Sahitya Akademi award.

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