Be True...Re-View: The Gods, Demons And People of Kunhimangalam

I am always suspect of travelogues, epic novels, and archival stories of myths of forgotten places. I am yet to come across a good one that holds my attention. 'The Gods, Demons and People of Kunhimangalam' by Sunil Kumar N manages to do just the opposite. A vast expanse of a tale of mythical lores and historical happenings buried deep in the psyches of a land, Sunil Kumar's book is a wonderful burrow to slip into.

Reading the book immediately suggests the difficulty and obstacles in compiling such a massive retelling of local legends. From the arrival of that perennial traveller, Ibn Batuta to the legends of Pulaya and the burst of communism in God's Own Country, the author takes us on a spectacular journey.

The only trouble with the book is that it confuses the readers with its style. It is not a scholarly chronicle of the legends and the myths. It is not a fictional novel with the legends interwoven into a story. This is perhaps the only, and fatal, flaw in this book. Somewhere through the pages, it becomes difficult for the reader to discern the perception and involvement of the author in these legends. The author does not maintain a steady hand in the description of his stories. The variation between the subjective and objective presence of the author makes it a bit complicated for the reader to trust the veracity of his stories.

That is not to say the stories themselves are uninteresting. They are a wonderful mix of tradition, innocent myths and stories of simple men who morphed into legends with a healthy coating of time on their memories. It is this wonderful combination that makes it all the more interesting. These stories of a little known region in one corner of this massive sub-continent give a glimpse into the hidden wealth of legends our country is blessed with. The author has done an admirable job of delving into the histories of these people to bring out these stories. One just wishes he had done a more efficient job in the compilation process.

All in all, 'The Gods, Demons And People of Kunhimangalam' is a wonderful read. If you don't mind meandering a bit through the tales. After all, what good is travelling, if you don't get lost.

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