Rising Daughter, Silent Mother and Fading Grandmothers narrates the organic research journey of Rekha Govindan Kurup (the author) as a modern-day city-bred daughter of Kerala, India wanting to redefine, reclaim and re-inform her relationship with body and sexuality through the discovery and investigation of Matrilineal Nayar practices.
Rekha did not grow up in a traditional Nayar matrilocal joint family, but instead she lived with her father, mother, and sibling in a nuclear home like many women of her generation. Her mother too, did not grow up in a matrilineal family. However, most of her grandmother’s generation was born in matrilineal Kerala and grew up in a matrilocal and matrifocal system. In conversation with her mother and grandmothers, Rekha makes a sincere effort to reconnect with the matrilineal past of Kerala, its history, the lived experience of women within that system, and most importantly, the female-centered rituals practiced within the system that empowered the fruitful blossoming of a young girl into an adult woman.
Through her narration, it becomes apparent that in the last century, Kerala made the shift from a sexually open socially safe mother-centered joint-family matrilineal life to a sexually uptight socially unsafe father-centered patrilineal nuclear family culture. In the backdrop of rising violence towards women, her research forces the reader to ask some relevant questions. Could the matrilineal past of Kerala have some unexplored answers for the younger generation of men and women around the world?
Could the stories of mothers and grandmothers from yesteryears collectively guide us towards building a better and safe world for our daughters?
About the Author
People used to ask me when I first went to Kerala as to what was I going to teach. I have always said that Kerala has been able to successfully navigate so many challenges through the centuries in a successful way, and I have always felt that this is the place that could give me hope. I have watched person after person (from the west) visit Kerala and be totally inspired. But we have all been people from the outside looking in. Now I really think it is important that those of you who are sort of boundary weavers, you need to take the best from your experience and marry it with these deep important traditions (just like Kerala has always done). Definitely, you are going to come out with something extraordinary and things that are important and foundational to the new Malayali society is going to come forth?
– Dr. Dianne E. Jenett, Co-Founder, Serpentina.com