Perumal Murugan is back in action. The Tamil writer who had given up writing in the face of collective intolerance, has returned with a story of women.
“Woman is nature. Without her, there is no earth. Womanhood is the soul of humanity,” Murugan said of his latest work, ‘Kankanam’
In Ernakulam to attend the Krithi International Literary Festival, Murugan said that the novel is inspired by a society which abandons girls. Several rich families in Tamil Nadu used to kill newborn girls because they did no want the wealth to be divided. The practice skewed the gender ratio in the state, prompting men to seek brides from neighboring Kerala.
“You could see boards in the countryside put up by agents promising to find brides from Kerala,” he said.
» What is the message you want to convey through your writing?
Literary works in all languages used to discuss the problems faced by the cream of society. Women and dalits were sidelined. That situation has changed. Their problems have become the subject of literature. Caste and the religion that sustains caste are being challenged. Religion, however, rebounds stronger every time it receives a setback. You can see it everywhere. Kerala is progressive yet recent reports have not been encouraging.
» Why did you declare that Perumal Murugan the writer was dead?
I have already said that. A writer needs a social system to survive. I declared the death of the writer in me because that environment was no longer there. If a writer could not write whatever he wanted to, he is better off dead. His works need to be debated on. When debates are discouraged, dictatorships are born.
» You have returned to writing. Has the situation changed in favor of freedom of expression?
The Madras High Court verdict is the reason. I read the order over and over. I felt it was like a literary work. It had a line, nudging me to keep writing. I would be insulting the court if I were to disobey it. I also received support from elsewhere.
» Is the present-day writer’s mission confined to writing?
A writer faces many challenges today. Writing is his primary mission. A writer has a duty to react against the evil tendencies in society. If a writer did not do it, who would? You cannot turn a blind eye towards injustices. We are seeing renewed efforts to silence the questions raised by society.
» How do you write?
My stories are within me. I have been writing since I was 8 years old. The lives I witness come out as my stories. Those will stay warm with me for a long time. One day they will materialize.
» You write novels, stories and poems. Which medium do you consider the most expressive?
You will have to fall back on novel to portray lengthy lives. The sparks in your minds becomes short stories and poems.