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LALITTHAMBIKA ANTHERJANAM (1909-1987)


Lalithambika was a writer who exposed the true conditions of women’s lives in traditional upper caste Nambudiri culture in Kerala. She took as her surname ‘Antherjanam’ which means ‘she who lives inside’.

Lalithambika’s life-work was the exposure and destruction of the hypocrisy, violence and injustice with which women were treated in Nambudiri society. Only the eldest son of a Namboodiri family was allowed to marry a woman of this own caste; the other sons had to marry the matrilineal Nairs. As a result many Nambudiri women remained unmarried all their lives, in restrictions that amounted to rigorous imprisonment. Their frustration and degradation moved Lalithambika to expose their plight in her celebrated Malayali novel Agnisakshi (The Fire as Witness). Married in 1926 to Narayanan Nambudiri, a farmer, Lalithambika found herself transplanted to a home of hard labour and lingering interior darkness, though she still managed to write. When she had finished her long and hard working day and put her children to sleep, she would bar the doors and, with only a tiny lamp for company, would sit down to write. This told on her health, and when her chronic eye problem became intolerable she would write with her eyes closed. Her writings are luminous with anger at the injustice she saw done daily around her.

Her works include a collection of short stories, Adyathe Kathakal (First Stories), 1937, Takarna Talamura (Ruined Generation) 1949, Kilivadilude (Pigeon Hole) 1950, Koddunkatil Ninnu (From a Whirlwind) 1951, Mudupadathil (Behind the Veil) 1955, and Agni Pushpangal (Flowers of Fire) 1960. She also wrote a commentary on 13 women in the Hindu epics titled Seetha Muthal Satyavathi Vate (From Sita to Satyavati) in 1972.
 
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