Bangalore Literature Festival 2017

Perumal Murugan on trying to break free of the shackles of caste

Perumal Murugan, author, speaking at the event.

Perumal Murugan, author, speaking at the event.   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy

Noted Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, who recently published a collection of poetry that he wrote during his self-imposed exile from writing following the controversy over his portrayal of caste in his novel One Part Woman, recounted his relationship with caste.

“My father ran a soda store in the village and thus people from all castes visited my house. This made me think that my mother was not casteist. But when I married out of my caste in a neighbouring village, she did not attend my wedding and refused to acknowledge my marriage. She was terrified to face her neighbours. She sold all her cattle and locked herself up in the house for months. I went with my family and lived in the village to bring her out of that shell,” he recounted.

Over the years, his mother had fights with him but not with his wife, he said. However, the casteism had not let go of her. “During her last days, she was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and wavering between the states of conscious and the unconscious. I had appointed a Dalit girl to look after her. When she was conscious, she was immensely repelled by the Dalit attendant,” he recounted.

Mr. Murugan’s mother was concerned as to where she would be buried after her death as the place was a direct function of her caste. “I was paying taxes in two villages where burial grounds were based on castes. I lived in Namakkal where two burial grounds were marked based on caste. But the dilemma was resolved by a new electric crematorium in our area. The taxes I paid at three places went a waste,” he said wryly.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 11:52:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/trying-to-break-free-of-the-shackles-of-caste/article19941902.ece

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