ನನ್ನಿ is an interesting short Kannada novel (179 pages), written by novelist Karanam Pavan Prasad, that I read recently.
The characters from the story come quite alive. The story spans about 3 decades (from around 1977-78 to around 2005), and mainly takes place in Kolkata and the outskirts of Bengaluru ( Or what was considered to be “outskirts” during the 80s).The novel runs in two parallel tracks: The life of a Catholic Nun in Kolkata, and the life of a few families belonging to different faiths in a small closely knit community in the outskirts of Bengaluru in the late 70s and early 80s. These two tracks merge into a single track later on in the novel and run together. The characters in the novel are full of life that they seem very real. Many of the incidents in the novel are based in real incidents but the time and space relations have been changed. I was in fact looking for some of the place names in the novel, only to realize the very authentic sounding names were fictitious, but located in a very familiar setting.
The story is told from the view of a Roman Catholic nun. The good, bad and the ugly that goes on in a charitable mission organization, the forced conversions, conversions for monetary benefits, money laundering, property fights that turn into communal riots, and people with different faiths, but with universal human values – all find a place in this story. To the credit of the author, none of this appears forced and the author does not preach an agenda. I don’t want to divulge much more about the story – but I can’t stop from saying one of the characters in the story is “Mother Elisa” who goes on to win a “Peace” award.
The narration switches between first person and third person, but at some places the transitions are not very clear. This may cause some confusion in reading for some readers. There are a large number of typos (which must have resulted because of a last minute change in fonts) that could have been avoided. Given that many of the characters would be speaking in English or Bengali (No, there aren’t any English lines in the book) , some parts appear a bit unnatural in the structure.
Previously, I’d read the earlier novel of Pavan Prasad (ಕರ್ಮ), and I felt the characters in this novel are more truer to life and multi-dimensional than in Karma. The title ‘ನನ್ನಿ’ (truth) is quite apt. The author does not appear judgemental anywhere about any of the characters but would want the readers to make a truthful impression for themselves.
I highly recommend all Kannada novel loving people to read ನನ್ನಿ. It’s very good to see a new generation of novelists coming in Kannada with the likes of Karanam Pavan Prasad and Dattathri M Ramanna (I had written about his ಮುಸುಕು ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ದಾರಿ a few months earlier).