The main stories of Kovilan are not past incidents. These are neither present incidents. These are mainly aesthetically bewildering puzzles traveling towards future. The story ' Conch ' is one such bewildering puzzle. All stories do not have this special privilege. No one will say so. Kovilan will never say so. Kovilan does not claim such profit motifs. Kovilan writes to familiarize the expanse of his consciousness to others. Rejoicing village, grieving village, struggling city and the snow covered peaks of mountain are not merely experiences in Kovilan's works, but are wisdom. Kovilan observes life. He experiments on its form. But for Kovilan both these are one and the same. Or when kovilan constructs a story both become one. That is how the story ' Conch ' was born. For him each work is an experiment. Kovilan has said that " Sakunthalam " is also an experimental work. There is history in Kovilan's works. But Kovilan's attention is not on the external expanse of history, but on the history of the expanse of consciousness. The reality does not have permanent features. Hence it keeps on demanding revolutionary forms. This truth is clarified when Kovilan constructs a story. This is not the vision of Kovilan's art, but the experience. The story ' Conch ' is the fruit of this experience.
The individual's wounds should heal. The world's sorrow should decrease. Our world should become livable for us. Kovilan's stories desire all these. Along with this, Kovilan observes the tragedies precipitated by disease and death. He realizes the depth of the painful scenes created by love. While constructing a story, Kovilan does not provide any information. Kovilan's is not a story. It is a discovery in the form of a story. It goes beyond the direct cognition. This is what we read in the story ' Conch '. The theme of this story is the feelings of ordinary people. Kovilan relates love and other matters to disease. Here the sea is not a background. It is indeed the foreground. It is because sometimes the writer conceives people to be the sea. Rema enters Vasudev's room as a blue sea. Kovilan qualifies the perpetual play of waves as the bullock dance of the sea. This is a conception which shakes up the drowsiness of our sensory organs accustomed to the familiar features of descriptions. It is the divine beats of the rustic imagery of the bullock dance of the sea. In comparison, Virginia Woolf's imagery of the sea dancing in happiness wilts away. The imageries of G in ' Sagarasangeetham ' and C.R.Das in ' Sagarageetham ' gasps behind. Here we observe the magic of the rustic culture of Kovilan's imagination. When Kovilan constructs a story, the imageries are attracted to the bewildering puzzles of aesthetics.
From imageries, let us come to the theme of the story. As in any other story, we observe people sharing the experiences of the world in ' Conch ' also. The most important fact is to capture the miniature world within human beings from these experiences. By entering Vasudev's mind and the external world alternatively, Kovilan constructs a miniature world by using words as hard crystal glass . The story begins with an invitation letter. Kovilan talks about a ' Conch ' kept above the invitation letter. On the Conch, it is written: ' we two on the seashore '. That was a present to Prof. Vasudev from Rema. Now it is not a Conch. It is a hardened memory. The conch on the tabletop is a gallery of experiences to Vasudev. Rema's mother had cancer. The cancer of uterus reaches the daughter through the mother. This becomes a reason for the separation of Vasudev and Rema. But here neither the disease becomes a villain nor the story moves to the cheap dramatics of sentimentalism. Kovilan holds back the art of description with the hardened detachment of a sage. Afterwards, Rema decides to marry someone else. He is in Vienna. He has a fellowship in Genetics. He says that in the age of the test tube baby infertility and heredity are old legends. Afterwards Vasudev begins a journey which does not take him to attend Rema's marriage. In the frightening freedom of movement of a vehicle devoid of brake, in its ultimate speed, he reaches an explosion. In this manner, Kovilan converts his story into a melody unifying the diversified sounds of love, disease, death, science, sex, childhood experience, fear of disease and the untold monologues.
When Kovilan constructs a story, a disbelief surfaces within. It is Kovilan's disbelief in understanding a story in the conventional manner. Without giving an opportunity to the reader to fix his emotional tip on some point, it moves in a strange narrative style by creating an external instability. A mismatch which becomes a beauty is created in the narration. A tantalizing division rules the narration. It is through this way the writer translates the shattered state of Vasudev's consciousness to the language. When the mind is analyzed in a magical way all become fragmented thoughts. All the fragmented feelings are tied strongly in one center. This is the reality that we experience in ' Conch'. This way Kovilan conquers the unyielding nature of the human mind. The emotional struggles of Vasudev and the structure of narration becomes one. When Kovilan touches Vasudev's mind and his external life another thing happens in the story. There the unification of the contradicting individualism and the world takes place. A critical relation between the world and man is established. We can understand the work of Kovilan in Winnicott's language thus: Kovilan is an artist who realises the innerself reality objectively.
Through this complex work, Kovilan's genius proceeds to a more complex awareness. In the extremely complex knowledge about life, love, disease, death and optimism become one and the same. This is the bewildering puzzle of the realization which goes beyond the direct awareness. Cancer is the important theme of the story. But the writer has camuflagued its terror. Just as Rema does not show any interest to say anything about her mother's cancer, Kovilan does not show any interest to say anything about the terror of cancer. This is the detachment of Kovilan's sense of art. That is why the disease does not become a villain here. Hence the writer presents cancer as a common disease. But in the philosophical world of the story, this transforms into something simple, common and extremely terrible just like the life story of Ivan Illich. The terrible disease makes the man an outcast. This may not reflect in the external life. But on the emotional levels, the patient becomes an outcast without anyone's realization. That is how Rema became an outcast in the first stage of a man-woman relationship. The man dies. But a disease like cancer converts this feature of death into a cruel reality. My existence is going to be extinguished. I am going to lose the world. All these thoughts bring fear. Thus, Rema also might have realized that there is no protection for the tough bodily pains. This is the depth of experience. Even though Kovilan has not described this directly, even in the vacuum of words of the story this strong experience of Rema wells up. Not yet over. We have the distinct sorrows of disease again. Cancer affects the internal awareness also. It abandons the external relations. Because Rema was aware that, cancer is the terrible beginning that converts a live man into a dead man. Just like all diseases, cancer is also related to love. Thomas Mann even presents a great thesis through a character Dr. Krokowski in the novel ' Magic Mountain'. This character says that love gifts its own share to disease. The symptoms of disease are nothing but the veiled presentation of love. Disease is love metamorphasised. This love does not desire sex. Love becomes disease to discourage sexuality from within. In Kovilan's language, this becomes the driving force to end life in the torn sack of celibacy. What happens to Rema is this tragedy of love which became disease. I think, that just as Thomas Mann, Kovilan is also attracted by the puzzles of love and disease. But this vision is basically human. It is a part of the writer's interest in life. As clarified by Thomas Mann, in the ultimate analysis, the experience of disease and death is the experience of life. This leads the people who thinks to humanity. Such experiences are there in the hidden consciousness of the story ' Conch'. When Kovilan constructs a story, he writes more than he knows.
But, in the evil of disease, Kovilan's men do not succumb completely. Kovilan does not immerse his men in total darkness while recognizing disease and death as reality and elevating them to another level. Realizing that man has been made for love, disease and death, the writer searches for the deciding moments of the future of his characters. Thomas Mann who dissolved love and disease into each other makes his character with oriental features, beautiful Clavdia to say that ' Death does not have supreme authority over my thought '. Rema also arrives at such a view. She believes that man-woman relationship is stronger than disease and death. The belief that infertility and heredity are old legends enters Rema as the holy language of optimism. This is a brave dream confronting the fears of destruction and decay of body. This is an awakening from the decaying body to a healthy hope. This is a dream coming true through the wishful thought and the wishful schooling conducted through art. Through this point of view, Kovilan was answering the most difficult questions of life. ' Conch' is a story ending realizing death as an explosion. Along with this, this story maintains a humanitarian optimism as a resounding force on the levels of disease seeking the brotherhood of science. This is revelation and illumination, reaching beyond the story. As prophets visualize in dreams, Kovilan was observing this in the story.
The imagery of ' Conch' is not only the symbol of some frozen experiences. In this story there are many more implications for ' Conch '. The story in toto becomes a melody from a wind instrument. At some occasions, the language becomes pure and holy as the sound of a conch. The sound of conch is as pure as the holy sound 'om'. The sound of Kovilan's language is almost like the sound of conch. The reverberating deep sound is created, when the opening of conch is pressed on lips and blown forcefully. Kovilan creates a magnificent world of sounds in language, through incessant flow of thundering words which reminds us of the sound of a conch. The orbit deviates ... The life is wasted in the torn sack of celibacy ... The biological caravan which reached man through the worship of speed ... Became a revered piece of bone ... In the tragic history of orbital paths - when Kovilan writes as such, seeking an ancient and holy music, a sound of conch is formed. Thus, this piece of art gives a language oriented experience as well.
When he constructed this story, Kovilan was revealing the experience of the sound of conch in the form of a story.
Translated into English by A.PURUSHOTHAMAN
Marol, Mumbai - 400 059, 4th November 1999.