Chitra Ramesh has woven a continuous narrative of life in Neyveli during the 70s and 80s when childhood was not a burden to be carried on one’s back but a bouquet of flowers to be held, to periodically inhale the fragrance as well as spread it for the others to enjoy.
The author has splashed, all through the book, her childhood pranks at home, at school and all over Neyveli Township. The innocent and cheerful pranks at home and school evoke mirth, and remind the reader of the carefree times at an idyllic location during a relatively peaceful era.
Neyveli has been my hometown too and I was able to very well travel with the author in her journeys into the myriad yet well laid-out lanes of the town. A sense of nostalgia grips when she mentions about the only movie theatre which screened those films which would have become outdated at least by two years.
The peer-pressure that never existed, the jack-fruit trees that were ubiquitous, the monkeys that lived on those, are all well documented in this travel down memory lane, aptly titled ‘Autograph’.
The then only means of transport was the omnipresent bicycle and she has touched upon that as well. One cannot imagine the town without its bicycles.
As times change, Neyveli has also shed its old world look and has begun to sport a trendy look with the arrival of mopeds and cars, thus spoiling the very USP of the town. And with these, the very character of the township has been lost to the commercial capitalistic pulls.
The once socialist paradise has now become a semi-capitalist tyranny and is slowly inching towards a complete commercial anarchy in the immediate future.
The book, though a pleasure to read and reminisce due to the immensely enjoyable narrative on those good times, also brings tears when it makes one remember the placid and laid back society that it used to be.
For sure, those days are not going to be back.