Isn’t life, but memories: Perumal Murugan

By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) Sometimes he does think about the passion, that nervousness he felt while writing his first book in Tamil ‘Eru Veyyil — the one that made major critics and readers take note of a young voice who wrote about a farming family and what they undergo after the government acquires their land for a housing project.

Even at that time, his social concerns — be it caste and other social issues — found a place in the realistic work that had elements from his life.

He was 25 then. Now, at 54, he tells IANS, “Sometimes I feel it could have been written with a bit more patience. Every time I read any part of the novel, I sink back into old times. The memories of my forefathers torment me. Isn’t life but memories?

But yes, post completing the novel, an enormous load was off my chest. There was this relief of unburdening, something that helped me move on to the next phase of my life.”

Now that Penguin Random House India has released the English translation of his debut work, with the title ‘Rising Heat’, the writer says it makes him extremely happy and is hopeful that it would get the same attention it received when it was published in Tamil. “The English translation is coming out nearly thirty years after I wrote ‘Eru Veyyil’. Multiple editions have been published in Tamil. This is a novel that got noticed when it was first published and gave me an identity.”

The writer who hit international headlines post the book ‘One Part Woman’, published in 2010 and translated into English in 2013 faced a lawsuit filed against him by caste-based groups accusing him of hurting their religious sentiments, and he declared on his Facebook page: “Perumal Murugan the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He also has no faith in rebirth. An ordinary teacher, he will live as P. Murugan. Leave him alone.”

However, in 2015, the Madras High Court dismissed the case against him. In an epilogue, the bench called on the author to start writing again: “Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at. Write.”

Murugan says that he did feel a difference in his writing when he started again post the judgment. “I realised a peacefulness akin to returning to one’s own home after wandering around hither and thither. There are changes in my writing now. I’ve made the locations and their names imaginary. I’ve stopped naming the castes. Other than these, if there are any, only others have to point them out.”

Talking about the omnipresence of customs and traditions in almost all his works, the author feels that the life of an Indian all but spans over five or six categories of celebrations that includes temple festivals and weddings. “These celebrations continue on through traditions. Since I write inspired by my soil, these traditions also become part of my writing. Where is the life in a writing that distances itself from customs and traditions?”

Noting the rise in Indian language literature being translated into English, the author adds, “India’s mufti-faceted lives and regions are now getting within the reach of an English reader. This should flourish even more.”

Adding that this period of lockdown had given a lot of anguish, Murugan says that he has not been able to write anything much. “Though I finished some short stories but writing with ease can only happen for me after this infectious period ends.”

–IANS
sukant/in

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