BOOK REVIEW: The story of a black goat and allegorical commentary

By FrontierManipur | Published On 03rd Feb, 2021, 11:17 GMT+0530

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Poonachi Or The Story Of A Black Goat, published in Tamil and translated into English by N Kalyan Raman, is narrated through the life of Poonachi, a ‘she black goat’.

By  Zuicy Beauty Akoijam

Perumal Murugan’s Poonachi: Or The Story Of A Black Goat opens with a sharp preface: “How long can an untold story rest in deep slumber within the dormant seed?”. This shows the context in which Murugan wrote this book- the first book he wrote after his return from self-imposed exile owing to threat and intimidation that followed the publication of his previous book ‘One Part Woman’. He further writes “I am fearful of writing about humans; even more fearful of writing about gods… Yes let me write about animals. ” This itself is enough to provoke readers to a world of not so ordinary one, but to that of allegorical commentary world on social and political order depicting the harsh reality of contemporary times. 
Poonachi Or The Story Of A Black Goat, published in Tamil and translated into English by N.Kalyan Raman, is narrated through the life of Poonachi, a ‘she black goat’. In a village an old man and his wife ended up adopting a worm-like day-old goat kid after being gifted by a mysterious stranger who popped up out of nowhere and disappeared into thin air. The story is about Poonachi, despite her fragility, lack of nourishment and downright unequal treatment thrown against her, fighting its way for survival.
The story also portrays the struggle of the old couple in bringing up Poonachi from feeding to getting its ears pierced with an identity chip, a procedure laid down by the authoritarian ‘regime’ through which it would track her life. The couple also has to avoid suspicion for the regime had wiped out black goats as they are equated with the criminal class. The regime in the book is described     “It’s deaf only when we speak about our problems. When we talk about the regime, its ears are quite sharp.” Ring a bell? 
In the book, Murugan uses sheep as a class of obeisance to the regime. Goats always stood with their heads held high while sheeps had their heads bowed all the time. Through the eyes of Poonachi, unlike the proud goats, sheep aren’t shackled and bound, for it was in the nature of the sheep to bow down. So there wasnt any need of effort to tie the sheep down. Very deep indeed, right?
What strikes me the most is how Poonachi is portrayed like any other woman- lack of capacity for individualized choice and action, depending on the generosity of others who decide her fate and the unending demands on the female body regardless of her emotion and dignity. Poonachi’s turmoil, pain, suffering, joy, love, separation are bound to take readers through an emotional roller coaster ride. Also, Poonachi being perceived as a daughter-in-law who has come to merely expand one’s family owing to her magical ability to produce 7 litters at a time, is what hit me hard.
At the end of the story, one is made to revisit the beginning of Poonachi’s story – “No one knew where she was born. The birth of an ordinary life never leaves a trace, does it?” It is up to the readers to decide whether the ordinary life of Poonachi did leave a trace or it is just a mere story of a black goat.

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