“I am a writer first… Writing is my jeevan(life)…” Tamil writer Perumal Murugan had told The Hindu ten days ago. That statement now seems full of pathos, with Murugan announcing on his Facebook page that “Author Perumal Murugan has died. He is no god, so he is not going to resurrect himself. Nor does he believe in reincarnation.”
The move comes in the wake of protests by right-wing Hindu organisations against his Tamil novel Madhorubhagan, published in English by Penguin as One Part Woman. The novel, according to the summary on Penguin’s website, revolves around the futile efforts of a childless couple to conceive, till the night of the car festival in the village temple, when rules are relaxed and “consensual union between any man and woman is sanctioned. This night could end the couple’s suffering and humiliation, But it will also put their marriage to the ultimate test.”
It is the reference to this practice of a century ago in Tiruchengode in Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu that groups were up in arms against, on the grounds that it portrayed the town’s temple and its deity, Ardhanareeswara, a form of Shiva and Parvati, in a derogatory light. Ironically, the novel was published four years ago, reminiscent of the move by Mumbai University to withdraw Rohinton Mistry’s “Such A Long Journey” in 2010, years after it was published.
The protests and burning of the novel had invited condemnation by several writers, publishers and activists, who had announced their support for Murugan. The writer had wondered if there was any point in writing for a society which “sets fire to a book without the slightest understanding of what literatures had to say about it.”
At a meeting convened in Namakkal by the district collector between the Murugan and the protestors, he had apologised and had said he would withdraw the portions of the novel which were considered offensive, according to news reports. His Facebook note, written in Tamil and being circulated on social media, also says he is withdrawing all the works he has written so far. He has asked his publishers not to publish his books and has offered to compensate those who bought his book and felt it was a waste. He has also requested all caste, religious and political groups not to engage in protests or create problems. “Please leave him alone. Thanks to everyone” the note, translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan ends.