Molly's evolution from a devoted daughter-in-law, a dutiful wife, a potential mistress of the estate to a woman capable of making a hare choice that brings her happiness is the main plot of the novel.
The novel is set in the period between the 1930s and the 1980s and the author uses important social, political and sporting events to provide the chronological backdrop for the saga. He successfully weaves into the narrative, fascinating customs and ceremonies, unique to the Syrian Catholics of Kerala and uses his expertise in various aspects of processing plantation crops like spices, coffee, tea, arecanut, coconut and rubber, to add an extra dimension to the novel.
A Harvest of Ecstasy is the heart-warming story of the prestigious Kollegal family belonging to the picturesque village of Puthupady in Northern Kerala.
The novel traces the fortunes of Thomachan and his family who own one of the richest and most successful estates in the region. Thomachan is heartbroken when his son shows no interest in the estate an its functioning , or in his lovely and talented wife Molly. The aging Thomachan hires Vasudevan, a young Hindu agricultural graduate, to manage the family's properties. Gradually Vasudevan comes to occupy a very special place in Thomachan's heart. He takes on the full responsibility of running the estate. When Thomachan decides to bequeath his land and assets to Molly, he is confident that she will have Vasudevan's unstinted support in handling the affairs of the Kollegal Estate.
Mathew Attokaran, MSc. PhD, was born in 1935 in Kerala, India. He is primarily a scientific researcher in the field of spices and plantation products. In the course of his long and illustrious career he was involved taking the lead for a large number of scientific publications, reviews and presentations in various national and international seminars and conferences. He has been a successful columnist, writing on subjects of popular science and humour in leading Indian magazines. He has also written a book titled Natural Food Flavors and Colorants, in 2011. The book has recently gone into a second edition and also a Chinese edition.
Dr. Attokaran is a keen reader of fiction and has travelled widely around the globe. At present, he lives in Cochin with his wife. They have two daughters and five grandchildren. This is his first attempt at writing a novel.
Kerala, a thin strip of land bordered on one side by the Indian Ocean and the other, by the Western Ghats, has a distinct geographic, agricultural and economic character. Being the entry point of the South-Western moisture bearing monsoon winds with a well developed mountain range along the eastern border which helps in precipitation the land is the recipient of copious rainfall. This in addition to the high soil fertility has made the region suitable for growing plantation crops like coconut, arecanut, tea, coffee, rubber and spices. When the story begins in the nineteen thirties, major portions of the region were ruled by somewhat orthodox Maharajas with British administration having minimal influence.
The influence of the British was mainly visible in the few estates that were growing export quality plantation crops. These estates were run mainly by the local Christians and since the products were in the domestic or unorganized sector, it was up to the middle men to garner the produce and then market it.
The spices trade was flourishing long before the Europeans came to Kerala, especially with the Arabs. Almost one third of the State's population is thus Muslim, converted by Arab migrants. Since it was Islam as propagated by the Arabs alone that influenced the Muslims of Kerala, they have a cultural identity distinct from that of the Muslims of the rest of India. A little less than a quarter of the population is Christian, the majority being the Catholics. Christianity was brought in by the Apostle St. Thomas who arrived in Kerala in the first century AD long before the European missionaries and traders who landed on Indian shores at the turn of the fifteenth century. Culturally the Christians of Kerala are also quite different from Christians in other States who are primarily converts after the arrival of the Europeans.
Both these religions, Islam and Chritianity, owe a great deal to the generosity and benevolence of the Hindus and Hindu rulers of the State. Before the twentieth century many Hindu sub-castes practised matrilineal systems, which accorded them a socially superior status. As per historical records, the high position and educational opportunities given to women of the region in the twentieth century had much to do with this tradition.
The Hindu society of the State, in keeping with its love for arts, culture and allied fields, produced many great religious leaders and philosophers like Adi Sankaracharya who built the modern structure of Hindu religion in India, and other progressive leaders such as Sree Narayana Guru who was instrumental in setting up a new religious order and channelling respect and position for the lower castes.
There are also several highly revered temples across the State, which continue to attract a large number of pilgrims from different parts of India. Notable among them are the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in the south and the Guruvayoor Sri Krishna temple in central Kerala. The Maharajas and their chieftains also nurtured new talent in literature, dance and music. Swathi Thirunnal, a fine composer of classical music and Raja Ravi Varma, the world renowned painter were members of the Travancore royal family.
The rulers were generally magnanimous to visitors from Europe. Even a small group of Jews, who landed on the Kerala coast to escape repression in European countries, were given honourable asylum near Cochin. The fact that St. Thomas received so much freedom to spread the Gospel in the State is proof of the tolerance of the Hindu people and the rulers of the land.
As could be expected, the large Christian population attracted various missionary organisations from across the world, mostly America, and their influence helped Christians to build educational, healthcare and even financial institutions in Kerala.
Communal harmony that existed until about the middle of the twentieth century was very strong. Society was shaped mostly on Hindu philosophy with very little westernisation. Malayalam was the mother tongue, and a deep aspiration to learn English remained in the hearts of Malayalees, both as a status symbol and as a means of obtaining good employment in foreign countries.
The common terms for addressing one's family members, are Appan or Appachan by Christians and Achan by Hindus for father. Mother is called Amma and sometimes Ammachi generally by Christians. Grandfather and grandmother are called Appapan and Ammama. Brother and sister are respectively Chettan and Chechi, and son and daughter are called Mon and Mol. Aliyan refers to one's brother-in-law. But all these forms are also sometimes used to address familiar people of appropriate age groups.
Eda (masculine) and Edi (feminine) meaning 'you there!' are informal modes of address depending on situations and either close familiarity or endearment. Similar is the case for Poda (masculine) and Podi (feminine) which generally means 'get lost!' said either humorously or in an admonishing tone.
All in all, this region has spun together a special culture with unique customs. Because of the Christian influence, consumption of non-vegetarian food and liquor is more common in the region compared to other parts of India.
The following story represents an era before crass commercialism, garish immorality, religious intolerance and unbridled political ambition reared its head in the State, as is the unfortunate reality at present.
Many were the useful discussions I had with Professor Madhukar Rao about English literature. It is indeed sad that he is not in this world now. Dr. PS Sreekantan Thampi is another with whom I had interaction with regard to various aspects of spices and plantation crops. I would like to thank them as well as Kuruvila Chacko, who did much to improve the manuscript, and Moby Paul for word processing assistance.
Item Code: NAL031 Author: Mathew Attokaran Cover: Paperback Edition: 2015 Publisher: Niyogi Books ISBN: 9789383098972 Language: English Size: 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch Pages: 216 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 220 gms