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University Grants

Final report of

UGC Sponsored

MINOR RESEARCH PROJECT

Financial Assistance F. No. 23 – 494/12 (WRO)

(XIIth Plan)

 

HISTORY, MEMORY AND COLLECTIVE

RESISTANCE – A CRITICAL STUDY OF

AUTOBIOGRAPHIES BY NAMBOODIRI BRAHMINS

 

Principal Investigator

Dr. K. B. BINDU

Associate Professor

Department Of English,

M. T. B. Arts College, SURAT.

 

Submitted Through :

The Principal

J. B. Dharukawala Mahila Arts College, SURAT

 

MINOR RESEARCH PROJECT SUBMITTED TO

THE UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION,

WESTERN REGIONAL OFFICE

PUNE

 

APRIL – 2015

Annexure-VI
UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION
BAHADUR SHAH ZAFAR MARG
NEW DELHI - 110 002.
Annual / Final Report of the work done on the Minor Research Project.
(Report to be submitted within 6 weeks after completion of each year)
01. Project report No. 1st / Final : Final
02. UGC Reference No. F 23-494/12 (WRO)
03. Period of report : From April 30, 2013 to  April 30, 2015
04. Title of research project : History Memory and Collective resistance - A critical Study of autobiographies by Namboodiri Brahmins.
05. (a) Name of the Principal Investigator : Dr. K. B. Bindu
       (b) Deptt. : English.
       (c) College where work has progressed : Shree J. B. Dharukawala Mahila Arts College.
06. Effective date of starting of the project : April 30, 2013. 
07. Grant approved and expenditure incurred during the period of the report : 
      (a) Total amount approved : Rs. 1,20,000/- (Received 1,00,000/-)
      (b) Total expenditure Rs.1,14,487/- 
      (c) Report of the work done : 
 
      The title of the project undertaken is ‘History, memory and Collective Resistance - A Critical study of Autobiographies by Nambutiri Brahmins.’
      As is evident, it is an interdisciplinary project especially centered on Namboodiri autobiographies. The works under study are : 
(1) Kanipayoors' Ente Smaranagal. (My reminiscences)
(2) Devaki Nilayamgode's Antharjanam. (The Women inside)
(3) Lalithambika Antharjanam's Atmakathakyoru Amukham. (A Preface to Autobiography)
(4) V. T. Bhattatiripad's Kaneerum Kinavum (My Tears, My Dreams)
In the case of autobiographies which are of main concern in the present study, the notion is that autobiographies tend to represent the isolation, involvement and identity of the writers. The Namboodiri Brahmans, in their own way also tried to secure and defend their identity, at the same time, trying to break away from age  old conventions. Kanipayoor Shankaran Namboodiripad’s Ente Smaranakal (My Reminiscences) published in 1965, is one of the earliest autobiographies.
      I had the good occasion to go to Kanipayoor mana in Kunnamkulam and meet Krishna Nambooripad as well as a visit to the Panchagam press looked after by the family. Autobiography gained momentum only after the social reform movements. The Nambutiri community in Kerala took to writing autobiography in a rather reluctant manner. Lalithambika Antharjanam and Devaki Nilayamgode unfold the story of women’s subjugation through their respective autobiographies. Kanipayoor Shankaran Namboodiripad looks at autobiography as a historical narrative. On the other hand, V. T. Bhatthiripad used autobiography as a movement for social change. Their accounts prove beyond doubt that they have imdomitable courage, which makes spearhead the movement for social change. They were writing not only to present their own point of view but also to show a mirror to society they were a part of.
      The fact is that Nambutiri culture, history and literary representation is a topic that needs to be discussed and debated. The silence of the Nambutiri community inside the four walls of the illam were broken by these few voices trying their best to become a part of the larger mainstream.
      The contents of the work are as follows : 
CHAPTER – 1
Introduction
CHAPTER – 2
Nambutiris – Culture, history and representation
CHAPTER – 3
Autobiography as historical and cultural narrative – Kanipayoors’ Ente Smaranagal (My Reminiscences)
CHAPTER – 4
Sambandham, Smarthavicharam, and other cultural memories – Devaki Nilayamgode’s  Antharjanam (The Women inside) and Lalithambika  Antharjanam’s Atmakathakyoru Amukham (A Preface to Autobiography) 
CHAPTER – 5
Self Awakening, resistance and the quest for change- V. T. Bhattatiripad’s Kaneerum Kinavum (My Tears, My Dreams)
CHAPTER – 6
Writing History/Writing Culture/Writing Self: Interrogating Namboodiri Autobiographies
 
Select bibliography
      It has been my effort to complete to work as best as I could. I also made a personal visit to different illams in order to have an indepth analysis of the different problems faced by the Namboodiri men and Women. I could also get a wide range of books in the area from India as well as abroad, which could help me in doing a great deal of fruitful work.
 
      (i) Brief objective of the project : 
 
      The objective of the report was to understand and analyze how the Namboodiri Brahmans try to attain a ‘‘desired subjectivity’’ through their autobiographies. Its objective is to view autobiographies by a socio-historical analysis, as well as looking at the collective and historical dimensions. Also, it attempts to find out the resistance to change as well as the assertion of authority. The main objective was to understand autobiographies as historical and cultural narratives. Also, it aimed at looking to Kerala history and culture from the Brahmanical point of view. 
      (ii) Work done so far and results achieved and publications, if any, resulting from the work (Give details of the papers and names of the journals in which it has been published or accepted for publication in VNSGU Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences- Jan-June-2016.
      (iii) Has the progress been according to original plan of work and towards achieving the objective. if not, state reasons Yes.
Annexure-VII
UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMISSION
BAHADUR SHAH ZAFAR MARG
NEW DELHI - 110 002.
 
PROFORMA FOR SUBMISSION OF INFORMATION AT THE TIME OF 
SENDING THE FINAL REPORT OF THE WORK DONE ON THE PROJECT
 
01. Title of the Project : History Memory and Collective Resistance-A Critical study of autobiographies by Namboodiri Brahmins.
02. Name and Address of the Principal Investigator : Dr. K. B. Bindu
03. Name and Address of the institution : J. B. Dharukawala Mahila Arts College
04. UGC Approval Letter No. and Date : 23-494/12 (WRO)
05. DAte of Implementation : April 30, 2013.
06. Tenure of the Project : Two Years.
07. Total Greant Allocated : 1,20,000/- (One Lakh Twenty Thousand Only)
08. Total Greant Received : 1,00,000/- (One Lakh Only)
09. Final Expenditure : ___________________________
10. Title of research project : History, Memory and Collective resistance - A critical Study of autobiographies by Namboodiri Brahmins.
11. Objectives of the Project : 
      The objective of the report was to understand and analyze how the Namboodiri Brahmans try to attain a ‘‘desired subjectivity’’ through their autobiographies. Its objective is to view autobiographies by a socio-historical analysis, as well as looking at the collective and historical dimensions. Also, it attempts to find out the resistance to change as well as the assertion of authority. The main objective was to understand autobiographies as historical and cultural narratives. Also, it aimed at looking to Kerala history and culture from the Brahmanical point of view. 
12. Whether Objective were Achieved 
      The objective of the project were fully achieved and the concluding chapter ‘‘writing history / Writing Culture / Writing Self’’ helps us to understand Namboodiri autobiographies in totelity. After a reading of autobiographies we find out that autobiography has increasingly become a site where the artist and history coincide, where the artist and culture coincide and a culmination of these becomes the autobiographical moment for a meeting of “Writing” and “Selfhood”.
 
13. Achievements from the Project 
      It can be argued, after a reading of autobiographies written by Nambutiri Brahmins, that autobiography has increasingly become a site where the artist and history coincide, where the artist and culture coincide and a culmination of these becomes the autobiographical moment for a meeting of “Writing” and “Selfhood”.
      This study carries the questioning further, revealing a general resistance to the whole notion of writing autobiography.
      Starting with this premise, the four autobiographies – Kanipayoor’s ‘Ente Smaranagal’, V. T. Bhattatiripad’s ‘Kaneerum Kinavum’ (My Tears My Dreams) Lalithambika Antharjanam’s ‘Atmakathakyoru Aamukhan and Devaki Nilayangode’s ‘Antharjanam’ are able to throw light on the obscure and hitherto unknown world of Namboodiri Brahmins.
      When we look at the range of autobiographies written by Namboodiris, the concept of ‘intention’ has to be looked into. And as Linda Anderson asserts, intention “has had a necessary and often unquestioned role in providing the crucial link between author, narrator and protagonist.” Reading these autobiographies, we have a sense that we are reading history, comprising of the socio–economic life of people in the traditional society of Kerala in the 18th and 19th centuries. It also brings to the fore many cultural concepts peculiar to Kerala life such as Sambandham (marriage without responsibility), marumakatthayam, (descent through sister’s children), smarthavicharam (trial), feudalism etc., including the concept of purity and pollution. These autobiographies also construct a history of ‘selfhood’, through narratives which makes us aware of the writer’s self, in the process also becoming historians of the self.  
 
      Three broad approaches can be seen in a study of these autobiographies. – Autobiography as history, autobiography as culture and autobiography as selfhood.
      The major achievement of the report is in bringing out these interactions between history, culture, selfhood, memory, resistance and their whole integration in autobiographical writing.
 
14. Summary of the Findings : 
      The conviction that only persons in elite positions of authority need to write their autobiography is further supported by the numerous critical comments that autobiographies outside the elitist domain have to face.
      It is from this angle, that we have to look at history. The point is that all the history that we read about is about the people in the higher echelons of power and authority. There is an equally elitist angle to the writing of history as it is in autobiography. Kanipayoor’s Ente Smarangal and V. T. Bhattatiripad’s Kaneerum Kinavum, raise some questions about the possibilities of such complementary and alternative histories. The point of intersection between autobiography and history thus becomes important in the assertion and self definition of the Namboodiri community. One thing that is emphasized by women is that they hardly get time to write during daytime. So it is that they take to shorter forms such as short stories and articles rather than a full length novel. In the case of Namboodiri women, they are defined not only in the category of WOMAN but also by the category of ANTHARJANAM, the women indoors, which endows a very limited space. That explains why there is an identification of a collective selfhood in the case of autobiographies written by Antharjanams. All Antharjanams live out almost the same narrative with only minor differences.
      The space mapped by autobiographies is the space where culture locates itself. The “subjects” of Namboodiri autobiographies are men and women who are situated within conflicting, and at the same time, mutually constricting roles.
      If we take Namboodiri autobiographies as a body of narratives, it is evident that they provide a spectrum of identity circumscribed by the Namboodiri  culture. The relationship between life, history, culture and autobiography is thus well brought out in these autobiographies. We can understand therefore, that there was a deliberate attempt to maintain the exclusivity of the Namboodiri way of life.
      All the Namboodiri autobiographies, in one or the other way, can be seen as movements of resistance and an attempt to break down the barriers which isolated them from others.
 
15. Contribution to the Society 
      This project will help to unravel the unknown world of Namboodiri men and women through the select autobiographies. 
      Autobiographical writing in India is in an emergent phase. What is notable is that autobiographical writing by Namboodiri Brahmins conveys the experience of living as a Namboodiri. Their writing contains a superficial impression of familiarity, at the same time these autobiographies retain the vantage point of the outsider. The attempt in these autobiographies is to unlock certain codes of Namboodiri life that remain hidden from most people.
      One way of looking at these autobiographical accounts is to understand it in the light of social reforms in the community. As K. M. Krishnan observes in his introduction to My Tears, My Dreams, “The most important aspect of the Namboodiri social reform was the fact that it was aimed at reforming itself and so targeted itself – an aspect that is often overlooked.” (Bhattathiripad xviii)
      Coming to the writers, it seems that all four writers included in the present study are reluctant writers – writers who look at themselves as a part of the historical and cultural process. Their autobiographical work, therefore, acquires its larger meaning in the context of the narrative of the community.
16. Whether any PH.D. Enrolled / Produced out of the Project : No
17. No. of Publication out of the Project : Nil
 

 

 

(Principal Investigator)                                                                                                                                                       (Principal)

                                                                                                                                                                                                       Seal

 

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