As a reader and translator, I have always been fascinated by marriage as a literary theme. Carl Jung called marriage “a mystery woven into the fabric of time.” Writers forever have been exploring the marriage dynamics – the ephemeral and the enduring, the pious and the mundane.
When I published my first book of translations in 2005 – an anthology of author Jayakanthan’s short stories based on the theme of marriage – I wrote:
“All seven stories reflect something of the infinite diversity in marriage and give a broad perspective on the nature of marriage and its manifestations with lucidity and insight. It is the uneasy alternation of feeling, of pathos and irony, of intimacy and estrangement that make up the sweet and sour pleasure of this anthology.”
Since then, I have translated several short stories, novellas, and novels on the theme of marriage, but it took me more than twenty-five years to zero in on Indira Parthasarathy’s novel, Helicoptergal keeze irangivittana. Indira Parthasarathy is a widely recognized author of Tamil short stories, novels, and plays and has won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Padma Sree.
The Helicopters Are Down is an English translation of his novel and was published by Hachette India on July 17, 2023.
The novel was originally published in the seventies as a serial in Kalki, a popular weekly. The story which concerns a crisis in marriage stayed with me all these years because it ends with an anonymous telephone call.
The story asks a question: What might save this failing marriage? Amirtham, the protagonist, realizes reveries and fantasies are no substitute for trust and commitment if he wants to improve his relationship with his devoted wife Thilakam. He is helped by his psychologist/friend, Mr. Banerjee whose advice is free of psychobabble and prattle. He counsels Amirtham to be plain-dealing, sincere and unequivocal. “Be straightforward,” he says echoing Carl Jung’s advice: “Your vision will be clear only when you look into your own heart.”
The defining moment for Amirtham comes when the helicopters come down during the rehearsals for the Republic Day celebrations. Bhanu – his ‘coy, teasing dream girl’- opens up and clears his mind. Like the blades of the helicopters moving through the air as they land, one could say, that she sweeps away the cobwebs from his head. Amirtham gains a new insight into freedom and the role Thilakam should play in his life.
A recent review can be found here: https://www.storizen.com/book-reviews/the-helicopters-are-down-by-indira-parthasarathy/