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    Synopsis of Four Aleys:

    Life on the island of Kanyadhan in Kalam- a town in Devanidhi state – flows as gently as the Kanya River which encircles it. On the banks vain trees bend over   to admire the reflection of their lush yellow flowers. Banana plants, confused about the season, give bananas every day.  Rice boats float in, piled high with the harvest.

    Big House, built by the fleeing priest Mathachen hundreds of years ago, sprawls over this island. His descendants play out the drama of their lives against the background of this house that never sleeps.

    Little Aley lives here with her mother Aleyamma and Raman a wild monkey and Amini, a servant girl, as her constant companions. She hears stories about her grandmother Aley after whom her mother and she are named, from her beloved grand aunt Kunjupenkochama who is the fourth Aley.

    Then things change. Old faithful retainers challenge the might of her beloved granduncle – Velliachen – the patriarch of the family. The feudal families retaliate. Many die.  Landowners are bewildered that their servants no longer come to receive festive hand-outs. There is a brisk trade in illegal guns; sharpened knives are hidden beneath pillows everywhere. The time of Big House is over.

    Little Aley leaves Big House and Kalam and will return as an adult many years later. She struggles to unravel the mystery of three women all called Aley living through the painful modernization of a feudal society.

    An excerpt from Four Aleys

    Velli rolled his chair closer to the planters. “These are our people… They and their fathers and their grandfathers. From the time the big boat came around the bend of the Kanya, our twin destiny binds us. Now my nephew is to marry one of them. This is a first, one of many firsts. Put aside all these fears of uprisings and land grabbing.”

    “My sister-in-law, a dhobi’s… my, that sounds so….”

    “And you? Who would your wife be if I left you to your fate and the wrath of the workers?”

    Damodaran, Yohanan, Thoma, Thoma2 and Shangu, Janaki’s father, entered along with a number of men. Bare bodied, their check lungis washed, starched, and respectfully let down to their ankles. Men who came to Big House to give or take bags of rice, coconut, ginger and turmeric. Farm hands stood with sickles stuck into the twisted fibre belts around their waist, bare-chested, shorter, darker, and stiff. Stone figures saying nothing, neither agreeing, nor disagreeing.

    Velliachen nodded towards them. He expressed their thoughts. “Shangu,” he called. The old man looked up startled. “Come forward. Your family and ours connected for years, will be now intertwined through marriage. Delightful.”

    Another excerpt from Four Aleys

    Elizabeth looked around the familiar graveyard. Nothing had changed. She climbed onto the platform and sat on the cement floor which hid the flat marble slab which lay over the entire room below. At one end stood an upright headstone. Only if she stepped far, far back could she see it was a cross—fat and curvy. She read the list of names, in white, on the black marble panel. It gave no information about the buried—not the year each was born, or the year they died. Only names; women’s in one row and men’s in another. Among the many women’s names lay the name Aley, written several times. Three of them were part of her story. Her name would be there one day.

    Though the sun was hot on her back, she shivered. Her eyes closed. The cement floor tilted and down she slid through golden vapours, through the dust motes… into the cavern. Here they all lay, in intermingled layers—brothers and sisters, uncles and lovers, husbands and wives and brothers-inlaw. And her mother who waited now, in eternity, to hear her daughter say the goodbye she refused to say when she was alive.


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    ITC My Fortune,
    46 Richmond Road,
    Bengaluru 560 025  Karnataka
    Phone :+91-80-25001700


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  • Four Aleys

     

    This is a book about four women—all named Aley. It is a story of obsessive love and familial loyalties set against a background of social upheaval. The women in the feudal, patriarchal, landowning family of Big House deal with their complicated lives as best as they can and Little Aley, the youngest of the four, tries to make sense of the lives of her hapless namesakes. She vows never to fall victim to the emotions which had tortured her mother, grandmother and beloved grandaunt and is determined to set a balance in the social system, that after a violent upheaval, now fumbles to constructively reinvent itself. Will she be able to achieve this? And will it give her contentment if she does?