Poonachi is Perumal Murugan’s novel published after the violent protests against One Part Woman, which brings the author’s work to notice. In 2015, Murugan abandoned his lifelong home in the Tamil Nadu town of Namakkal following threats and intimidation about the novel’s portrayal of life and gave up literature for a brief period.
The preface of the book says, “I am fearful of writing about humans; even more fearful of writing about gods….” “Therefore, I’ve chosen to write about goats.”
The Story of a Goat explores a side of India that is rarely considered: the rural lives of the country’s farming community.
The author tells a human story through the eyes of a goat. He portraits the dangers that threaten the lives of the weakest society through the story of a helpless young animal lost in the world.
As the story opens, a poor farmer in Tamil Nadu is watching the sunset, for whom grain cultivation is a luxury, and rearing livestock a way of life. He sees a mysterious and giant man appear before him. And, he offers the farmer a black goat kid who is too frail to survive.
From then, the story turns towards a malnourished goat that survives despite the threats to his life. Attacks by prey, the slaughter of her lover, and the sale of her kids, nothing breaks her vitality, though it dims little by little.
When the goat reaches adulthood and begins to menstruate, she is impregnated by another goat at the pasture. But she wants to run away as the thoughts of freedom lure her, and she falls headlong in love with a young buck. Eventually, Poonachi becomes pregnant and she gives birth to a litter of seven kids; the couple decides to sell the kids. And when a wealthy stranger comes by and gives the couple a generous offer for all seven kids, they sell them.
One night, when Poonachi and her lover were tied next to each other in the barn, they passionately had sex. But sadly, the next day, her lover was sacrificed to the gods, and she was devastated.
But Poonachi was pregnant once again and again gave birth to a litter of seven kids. However, this time the landscape is semi-arid and thirsting for rain, and no one is interested in purchasing the kids. Once again, the rich stranger returns and offers to buy four of the kids, even though, he reports, all of the female kids from the last litter have died.
One night, Poonachi cries out while dreaming of her lover. The old woman mistakenly believes that Poonachi is in heat and takes her to be impregnated by a wild goat. The drought still continues, and the couple repeatedly cuts back on their daily food, eventually slaughtering Poonachi’s kids for food. The old man curses Poonachi, as he thought she is responsible for the tremendous famine. And one day, the couple had to sell all of their other goats, and most of the household items.
As Poonachi sleeps one night, a dream takes her through all of the different milestones and moments in her life. When the old woman wakes up in the morning, she sees that Poonachi has turned into a stone statue.
The story ebbs and flows and takes you through the society of power, bondage, and surveillance.
The author being from a family of farmers, uses his insight to talk about rural lives. And while telling the story of an animal, he also tells the story of daughters of our country.
Murugan’s sarcasm speaks of his robustness.
It is a book that delivers a big message. It is also a personal story of the writer who faces trauma for showcasing the truth. But he modernizes and constructs a narrative that fits within the so-called norms of our society.