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Set against the backdrop of a crumbling matrilineal tarawad system of the Nairs in Kerala with its petty rivalries and jealousies, its sambandhan system of contractual marriage, its conflicts and problems, and the changes in land legislation which sharply erode the feudal order, Kaalam is the story of sethumadhavan Nair who starts out as an ambitious and confident adolescent—but in his journey towards adulthood, where material and social success go hand in hand, he is faced with an overwhelming sense of disillusionment. The river of Sethu's village, a mute witness to every crisis in his life, mirrors this journey, its sensuous beauty transformed to dry sand. MT’s lyrical prose captures the changing moods and seasons of the landscape of his own childhood in a novel that, though not strictly autobiographical, shares some of the emotional experiences of the protagonist. In a finesse characteristic of Nair's profound, yet minimalist sense of expression, the starkness of reality found in this story is touching and insightful.