How a 1950s Tamil novel challenged the caste and age barriers to love

T Janakiraman's Mogamul broke traditions and norms of society back in the 1950s and paved the way for more such transgressions in Tamil cultural space | Image - Eunice Dhivya

There aren’t too many couples who dare to defy the older-woman-younger-man relationship stereotype or to break the ‘great Indian caste barrier’. So to do both in the 1950s was not just unimaginable but a freaky rebellious step.

Writer T Janakiraman decided to explore this subject in his novel ‘Mogamul’ (Thorn of Desire). The plot follows a 20-year-old man’s relationship with a woman 10 years older and from another caste.

The story takes place in Thanjavur where Cauvery river irrigated large swathes of agricultural lands. Even though the landlords practiced polygamy, they would still choose the other woman from the same community.

But one such landlord named Subramania Iyer breaks that norm and marries a woman from the Maratha community and they have a daughter named Yamuna. Due to her parents’ inter-caste marriage, Yamuna doesn’t find any suitor till she turns 30.

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