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Balyakalasakhi meaning childhood companion, is a Malayalam romantic tragedy novel written by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. Published in 1944, it is considered by many as Basheer’s best work. The story revolves around Majeed and Suhra, who are in love with each other from childhood. By Basheer’s own admission, the story is largely autobiographical.
The childhood romance between neighbours blossoms into passionate love during adolescence. Majeed’s father was rich once, so could send him to a school in the distant town, although he was not very good at studies. Suhra’s father on the other hand had trouble making both ends meet. Even then he wanted to send his daughter, who was good at studies to the school. But after her father’s death, all her hopes of further studies was ruined. Majeed begs his father to sponsor Suhra’s education, but he refuses.
Majeed leaves home after a skirmish with his father, and wanders over distant lands for a long time before returning home. On his return, he finds that his family’s former affluence is all gone, and that his beloved Suhra has married someone else. He is grief struck at the loss of love, and this is when Suhra turns up at his home. She is a shadow of her former self. The beautiful, sunshiny, vibrant Suhra of old is now a woman worn out by life, battered hard by a loveless marriage to an abusive husband. Majeed commands her, “Suhra, don’t go back!” and she stays.
Majeed leaves home once again, but this time with plans on his mind. He needs to find a job, to ward off poverty, and thus he reaches a North Indian city. He finds work as a salesman but one day he meets with a bicycle accident in which he loses a leg. The day after he is discharged from hospital, he is informed that he’s fired from his job. He again sets off on a job quest knocking at every door, wearing off his soles. He finds work as a dish-washer in a hotel. As he scrubs dirty dishes each day, he dreams of Suhra back home waiting for him to return. He must make enough money to return home and repay debts, before he can finally marry the woman of his life. His mother writes to him that Suhra is sick and subsequently of Suhra’s death.
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