India Today Feb 7 2000
THE BETTER MAN BY ANITA NAIR PENGUIN PRICE: Rs. 250 PAGES : 361
Gaze of the Inner Eye
Grey shadows of a tortured soul-and more resplendent colours of an idyllic setting
By Alka Nigam
At the fin de siecle, Anita Nair’s imposing debut novel leads our agitated souls back to the primitive wisdom enshrined in love, the essence of one’s being. The Better Man is the journey of a soul, the story of a retired government officer -Mukundan Nair, who returns to his Kerala village. But this means coming face to face with his dead past, millions of grey shadows and ghosts of his dead mother and ancestors haunting and tormenting him.
Enter Bhasi and Anjana who rescue him from “the morass of the past “. Mukundan decides to spend the rest of his life cocooned in that magical happiness. But when his greatest desire to take his father’s place in Kaikurissi is threatened, he betrays them. Is he a mere extension of his father’s image?Selfish? His father at least had the courage of his convictions. The realization dawns upon Mukundan — he is a timid creature who had hidden his inadequacies as an excuse under the domineering personality of his father.
In the process of Mukundan’s redemption there emerge a host of characters. Some, with strikingly sharp features, refuse to exit long after the novel ends — the tyrant Achuthan Nair, devious Philipose and eternally ungratified Valsala. Their story exposes a basic human predicament — each one of us has one wounded corner in our personality.