Back From the Dead to Speak of Truth

Shobhana Kumar and Perumal Murugan in conversation

Shobhana Kumar and Perumal Murugan in conversation

The ‘Born-Again Writer’ talks at an Aakhar session in Coimbatore about why he returned to writing

Aakhar – the joining of letters to form words – holds significant meaning in the creation of literature, regardless of the language or region within India. Our nation is a treasure trove of regional languages and literature, which is a cause for celebration and fills us with pride for the rich diversity it represents. Keeping this in mind Prabha Khaitan Foundation has curated the Aakhar initiative to foster the growth of regional literature. Since its inception, the foundation has organised Aakhar sessions in various parts of India, with the most recent being the launch in in Coimbatore. This inaugural session featured the Indian author, scholar and literary chronicler, Perumal Murugan, whose works are critically acclaimed and widely read.

Hosted at Welcomhotel by ITC, Poonam Bafna, Ehsaas Woman of Coimbatore, delivered the introductory speech, while Roopa Mohandas, Ehsaas Woman of Coimbatore, welcomed the audience. Perumal Murugan is highly revered as a writer whose works have enriched the world of Tamil literature. The conversation between the writer and Shobhana Kumar, a memoirist, chronicler and industrial biographer, was one to be remembered.

Murugan is known as the ‘Born Again Writer’ because he broke his self-imposed silence and returned as a writer after having announced his ‘death’ on Facebook in January 2015, in response to harassment, attacks and threats from groups opposed to freedom of speech. He has authored twelve novels, six collections of short stories and four anthologies of poetry, and five of his novels have been translated into English, including Seasons of the Palm (which was shortlisted for the Kiriyama Prize in 2005), Current ShowPoonachi: Or The Story of a Black GoatOne Part Woman and Pookuzhi (Pyre). He also served as a Tamil professor at the Government Arts College in Salem Attur.

Murugan’s themes often revolve around the oppression of the weak, freedom, autonomy, childhood and more.

Murugan began his writing career by publishing numerous short stories in the Tamil journal Manavosai between 1988 and 1991. His novels draw inspiration from personal experiences and observations of the world around him. His themes often revolve around the oppression of the weak, freedom, autonomy, childhood and more. Poonachi: Or The Story of a Black Goat marked his comeback after the self-imposed literary silence. Critics consider this book an allegory about social oppression and authoritarian surveillance of the marginalised and the vulnerable. In the novel, a black goat silently witnesses the inequities and tragic violence of the human world.

The inaugural Coimbatore session of Aakhar left a lasting impact on listeners, who were filled with awe and inspiration. Murugan’s humility and his ability to weave engaging narratives with a touch of humour instantly connected with the audience, which comprised academics, students and avid readers familiar with Murugan’s work in both the original Tamil and the English translations.

Expressing gratitude on behalf of the Foundation, Mohandas delivered the vote of thanks. Bafna then felicitated the author, acknowledging his contributions to literature.

Aakhar Coimbatore was presented by Shree Cement Limited in association with Welcomhotel By ITC and with the support of Ehsaas Women of Coimbatore