The “end of strength” is not quite a full stop, says celebrated author

Eminent writer-activist Mahasweta Devi on Thursday laid emphasis on dignity for human beings, literary pursuit with humaneness and recognition of an individual’s first fundamental right – the “right to dream.”She was addressing the opening session of the five-day Jaipur Literature Festival.

Elaborating the frontiers of her life and work, perhaps with a desire to live another life of proven excellence, the Magsaysay award winner gave a call in “O to live again!” for protecting the dreams and ambitions of common people. Her similes were from an unsophisticated genre — an old woman who craves for sleep, an old pensioner who finally gets his pension, people evicted from forests and Naxalites.

The celebrated octogenarian author said she adhered to the belief that for any culture as ancient as ours to have survived over time, there could only be one basic common and acceptable core thought: humaneness. Small things and small dreams have their significance, she affirmed.

Ms. Devi, who has crossed 88 years of her life, said the “end of strength” was not quite a full stop. “Nor is it the last station where you get off the train. It is simply a slowing down. An ebbing of vitality,” she said, while noting that at her age, the desire to live again is a “mischievous one.”

At a subsequent session, the best-selling author in Bengali, who had worked closely with tribals and marginalised communities, in conversation with Naveen Kishore, commissioning editor of Seagull Books, spoke on “Women, outcasts, peasants and rebels.”

She said she hated the “middle class morality.” “It is such a sham. Everything is suppressed.”

“The only way to counter globalisation is to have a plot of land in some central place, keep it covered in grass, let there be a single tree, even a wild tree. Let your son’s tricycle lie there. Let some poor child come and play, let a bird come and use the tree. Small things. Small dreams,” she declared.

She referred to the interesting tribes and their customs in the country while pointing out that girl children were in great demand among the denotified tribes. “Similarly, hell has many names. One name I like in particular is ‘oshipatra bon’. [In this] the dead soul must walk through a forest of plants with sword-like leaves.”

Interacting with the audience, the author said society must condemn the double standards with which most of the people live. She threw light on her life when she separated from her husband to earn a well-deserved freedom and realised the multiple identities of a woman, about which she began writing.

Asked about the recent gang-rape incident in New Delhi, she agreed that the sense of outrage among people might not have been visible if the victim was a Dalit or tribal. On the supposedly declining number of Marxist writers in the country, she said it was for the readers to judge if a writer was an adherent of a particular ideology.