Hangwoman- K.R.Meera

Title-  Hangwoman

Author- K.R.Meera (Malayalam) Translated by J.Devika 

Published- 2014

Pages- 432

Genre- Fiction

There are so many people out there, whose existence we take for granted. It could be someone close to us, or someone who is essential for us carrying on our day to day activities without a glitch. This book is about one such essential cog in the wheel of the Judicial system in India, the hangmen. A hangman is a person who carries out the death penalty by executing the criminal in the gallows.

This book, originally written in Malayalam, is about a family of hangmen. Set in the state of Bengal, the book delves into the lives and lineage of hangmen. The story revolves around Grddha Mullick,a greedy and manipulative hangman, his daughter Chetna Mullick, who is touted to be the first hang-woman of India and Mitra, an opportunist journalist who manipulates them for his benefit.

The death sentence awarded to Jatindra Banerjee for having murdered children forms the backdrop of the story. The emotions that run inside Chetna, the rich legacy that she is expected to carry forward, the state of her freedom over her choices in life, the pressure on her on the symbolism that involves hope for women all over the world etc form the crux of the story.

The book explores, in detail, the emotional crisis that Chetna undergoes due to all the above issues. It is not easy for an author to convey the feelings and emotions of the character to the reader, which I felt was superbly done here. It was intense at a few places, especially where the pressure of the media is portrayed and the point where Chetna’s brother dies. In fact, I felt the book was quite intense for me and hence I took a long time to finish reading this book. I took multiple breaks in between to come to terms with what I was reading. The book slowly absorbs us into the story and makes us look at various aspects of the world with revulsion and disgust.

The portions where the process involved in hanging a convict in the gallows is explained is informative. Honestly, I never knew that there was so much behind every death sentence executed. It made me look at certain things in a whole new light, like how it happens to people sometimes.

I liked how Chetna was stubborn in her decisions without giving into her father’s manipulation. But even then, her heart yearned for a love which will always remain unrequited. That part felt real. Her conversations with Mitra’s mother, a beshya, also were noteworthy.

The narrative is quite long for the substance of the story. There are numerous anecdotes which form a part of the legacy of the family of Grddha Mullick described during the course of the story. A thread of love, grit, determination, patriarchy and abuse is also woven intricately along the lines of the story, so as to give it more flavour.

The translation of the book has been done with great care, such that it feels original. Kudos to that. I would love to read the original one for there is every possibility that something was missed out in translation. The book is a lengthy read, which will be liked by people who love reading historical anecdotes along with the main story.

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