Book Reviews

Hakumi : Dr Kanna Madavi's Schlep

Hakumi' is a Marathi Novel based on the life of Dr Kanna Madavi, who is the only doctor and educated person in Madia tribe in the dense forest of Gadchiroli district, Maharashtra. His village is Kandodi situated in mountainous hills in the remote area of the jungle which is horribly notorious for Naxalite guerrilla warfare. Madia is one of the primitive tribes which is far away from education and modern developments whatever. Despite over a dozen of the government policies of social welfare, no change in the life of Madia is visible. Aside some exceptions, almost entire Madia population live, even today, like the man in Paleolithic Age. They live in small villages consisting of ten to twenty huts. The hut is called Ketuli. Their staple food is rice along with flesh of wild animals; they eat meat of many types of animal right from wild boar to monkey. They also eat red ants and centipede to make up for proteins and salts. They have, like other tribes, their own deities which play very significant role in their individual and social life. They have a sorcerer who mediates between the deities, good spirits and evil spirits. He is called Bhumiya. Tilloi and Pocham Avval are their chief deities. Suresh Dwadashiwar, who is a noted journalist, has captured all this in his novel.

The novel opens with Kanna’s railway journey from Pune to Kandodi, his native place. A very detail description of scenic beauty and several geographical locations come in sight in the first chapter. Specially, the writer refers to the Vaingana– an important river which divides the life of tribes in this territory. As also Abujmad and Bhamaragarh, the two often mentioned terrains, are also brought in here. Kanna returns to his native village after he achieved a degree in medical science. This move on his part is quite unusual. Generally, students belonging to tribal communities prefer to go and stay in some big city. They make money there with the knowledge they acquired through their professional training. But when it comes to Kanna Madavi, the case is somewhat different. Instead of going to settle in the sophisticated world, he chose to live with his own people in the jungle. If the educated tribal youths want development of their own communities, no contribution is greater than their own one. They can resolve problems of their people more easily and permanently since they know the roots of those problems. Here the writer conveys this meaningful message through the protagonist’s decision of staying with his people. But at the same time the author insinuates that times are not good for Kanna in his village. He is shown entering the boundary of Kandodi in a pitch dark night and met a bunch person in a farm on his way. Dr Kanna Madavi didn’t know who those persons were. Nor did they know him. Actually speaking, they were Naxalites who had stirred out on prowling under cover of darkness.

Dr Kanna Madavi receives warm welcome in his village; his parents, brothers and sisters and also friends are happy seeing him back home. However, very soon he has to face many difficulties. Though he is one of them, his education has brought a lot of change in his way of thinking. He lived in Pune for about five years and saw the modern world there. So he wanted to bring some reforms in Madias’ life.

There were some social customs which Dr Kanna did not like at all. One of the customs he  was deadly opposed to was the traditional costume of Madia girls and women. There was a strict rule among the Madia that from the next day of marriage, the woman would not wear anything from above her waist. She would remain bare-bosomed for her all life. On the contrary,a Madia girl has to cover her whole body till the moment she gets married. This is a strange tradition in this tribe. Dr Kanna Madavi struggled to change this practice at the time of his sister’s marriage. He announced that his sister, Pavari, would not remain with bare torso. Then his own father, Dobi and other family members angrily argued with him. They said that that is their folklore and nobody can break it so casually. Secondly, it’s their deity, Tilloi's will that their women should remain with their chests uncovered. They reasoned with Dr Kanna that if their women didn’t live half naked, they would not bear children. Dr Kanna tried to convince them that women in city wear Saree and blouse, even then they have children. But his logic held no water for them

There is another very significant institution by the name of Ghutul in Madia tribe. In fact, it is an imposing wooden structure raised in circular form called Ghotul. It is generally lies outside Madia Village. Adolescent Madia boys and girls regularly gather in the Ghotul by night. . They play Rela- their famous dance here. Madia youngsters get introduced to each other in the Rela. They choose their future life partner around this period. Also they enter into physical relation freely. While playing Rela, the Madia boy takes his would-be wife into the deep jungle at the dead of night and they make love there uninhibitedly; their parents also permit their children to have pre-marital sex. They hold that unless they are familiar with each other’s physique, their marriage would not last for long. Sometimes, both boys and girls take with many participants of the Ghotul. But after their marriage; their pre-marital relations don’t create any qualms for them. To have sexual relation before marriage is a normal practice among Madia community. That’s why when Anita, Dr Kanna Madavi’s friend from Pune comes to see him in Bhamaragad, she is shocked seeing promiscuous relation before marriage. Dr Kanna’s sister, Pavari discusses with Anita somewhat lightly about free pre-marital sexual relations amongst Madia adolescents. She asks her casually if she did not sleep ever with Kanna when he was studying in Pune. That was a heavy blow to Anita who was brought up in the family sensitive to morality.

Subhash and Sarang had accompanied Anita in Kandodi. They had come here to confirm that if Dr Kanna Madavi had really abetted Naxalaite Movement. The news had appeared in all the news papers to that effect. Therefore, they had come over to this part of world all the way from Pune. With their entry, they were staggered by a ghoulish incident of human sacrifice. The Perrama who performs religious rites and had close relations with evils spirits had planned to kill a minor schoolboy to propitiate the spirits. Previously also, he had killed one minor child in honor of the evil spirits. Later, he sprinkled his blood over his paddy field to get bumper harvest. It was also told that the Perrama sold some farmers nails soaked in the blood of the killed child. He told them if they buried nails in their paddy fields they would get bumper crops as the Perrama got.

Anita and her companions saw the circumstances Dr Kanna Madavi lived in and their misunderstanding about him had altered a bit. But the main intention they had come with did not allow them to roam about. When they came up to Kandodi they kept up asking many inquisitive questions to Dr Kanna Madavi. They had to ferret out if there was really any nexus between Dr Kanna and Naxalites. To be frank,Dr Kanna has no secret plan to hide anything from his friends. He makes a clean breast of everything he has done so far. It is true that once he was taken away to the Parlkot River where Rajaiya,the leader of Naxalites, was wounded in the police firing. A bullet had stuck into his shoulder and the wound was bleeding profusely. If it is not contained in due time, the leader was going to die soon. So Naxalites approached Dr Kanna Madavi and requested him to help remove the shot from Rajaiya’s Shoulder. As a doctor, Kanna has discharged his duty and treated the Naxalite leader. That's it. But the newspapers have twisted the news by showing Dr Kannai an accomplice of Naxalites. And that was what enraged Anita, who was Dr Kanna’s best friend and social worker in Pune.

Rupi is the heroine of Hakumi. She had physical relation with Dr Kanna Madavi when they had come close in the Ghotul. Importantly,unlike other girls of Madia, she did not keep relation with other boys except Kanna, though they tried to flirt with her. She was quite different from the rest of the girls. She was tall in height and beautiful in complexion comparatively. When Kanna had gone to Pune. Rupi missed and pined for him in Kandodi. But as Kanna came back after getting degree of MBBS, Rupi was not there. She had miraculously disappeared. Her abrupt missing had left Dr Kanna in deep pains of loneliness He went to the ends of the earth to see her again but in vain. He approached the Naxalites and implored them to send a message to him if they found his beloved Rupi somewhere. Here also he met with a great disappointment; the Naxalites said that they did not find any trace of Rupi. And finally,Dr Kanna Madavi gives up on Rupi. He sets up his clinic in a ramshackle building of a moneylender and devotes himself to the service of his people. It is said that he has diagnosed and treated, free of charge, 48000 Madias from 38 villages. He was totally lost in serving the helpless Madias. On the one hand, he strove to look after the health problems of Madias and on the other; he desperately fought to free his people from brutal exploitations and oppressions by the police,various contractors and the forest department.

Thus one year gives way to the other and times go by. But Dr Kanna Madavi continues his work for his people. However, fond memories of Rupi, haunt his mind off and on. He wishes he found her again. And around the time a Naxalite comes and takes him to a rest house in the jungle. And to his great surprise, Rupi, appears there from nowhere. He is beside himself with emotions seeing his beloved before him. But he controls himself. Then they talk for a long time. Rupi has joined the Naxalite movement long before. She is in their outfit. But she takes off the Naxalite uniform and wraps a white Saree around her bosom just like the married Madia woman. Then Kanna and she enter a room of the rest house and are lost to the outer world. After an hour or two, Dr Kanna rises from his deep slumber only to finds all alone. He gets the message seeing the white Saree lying beside him. Then he returns to Kandodi with his heart full of warring emotions. Thus ends the novel- Hakumi- on an unhappy note.

Hakumi is a short novel that runs only in one hundred and thirty nine pages. But the theme it covers is very penetrative. Language is not convetionalyy deep. It is so easy that any layman can understand it. All the characters and events are, no doubt, based on real life tales. Even the name of the protagonist is real. Dr Kanna Madavi is now left Kandodi for a town place where he opened a hospital equipped with modern medical facilities. He has the same urge to change the fate of Madia tribe. Let’s see how he succeeds in his mission.


Hakumi : A Novel
Language : Marathi
Publisher: Shri Vidya , Pune
Year of Pub: November 8 , 1989


More by :  Prof. Madhav Sarkunde

Top | Book Reviews

Views: 3432      Comments: 4

Comment Sir i want to buy this book at physhyical stastus means writing copy

Nishigandh Japan Urade
04-Oct-2023 09:51 AM

Comment Would you mind giving me your e-mail id? You can send it to Thanx.

07-Mar-2014 12:38 PM

Comment Nair Saheb, Thank you for your perfect comment. Schlem , the term in the title means a difficult and long journey ( Macmillan Dictionary ) The novel is written by Suresh dwadashiwar but it is narrated by Dr Kanna himself.

truth seeker
07-Mar-2014 11:20 AM

Comment Your review is as good as reading the novel. Thanks.

It reminded me of the classic novel "The Citadel" by A.J. Cronin where an enthusiastic medical novice Dr. Andrew untiringly works to advance medicine and improve medical ethics. Dr. Kanna is in a similar endeavour although his work has more social implications.

The canvas chosen is too large. The fact that the author (who I believe is Dr. Kanna himself although it is not mentioned in the review) does justice to it in just 139 pages is commendable.

BTW, what does Schlep in the title mean? The Merriam Webster dictionary says that it means "to pull or push something sluggishly". What is the relevance here? It baffles me like the word "subaltern" in your tribute to Namdeo Dhasal.

06-Mar-2014 21:59 PM

Name *

Email ID

Comment *
Verification Code*

Can't read? Reload

Please fill the above code for verification.