Acclaimed writer Perumal Murugan has said that the Madras High Court order that quashed criminal proceedings against him, for allegedly hurting the sentiments of the people of Tiruchengode with his novel Madhorubagan (One Part Woman), was like a "personal note" to him.
The order, passed by Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Pushpa Sathyanaraya on 6 July, said a ban against Murugan's 2010 novel was unconstitutional.
The judgment was summarised with the words:
"The author, Prof Perumal Murugan, should not be under fear. He should be able to write and advance the canvass of his writings. His writings would be a literary contribution, even if there were others who may differ with the material and style of his expression... Time is a great healer and we are sure, that would hold true for Perumal Murugan as well as his opponents; both would have learnt to get along with their lives, we hope by now, in their own fields, and bury this issue in the hatchet as citizens of an advancing and vibrant democracy. We hope our judgment gives a quietus to the issue with introspection on all sides... Time also teaches us to forget and forgive and see beyond the damage. If we give time its space to work itself out, it would take us to beautiful avenues. We conclude by observing this – 'Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at. Write'."
Murugan said that the it was this conclusion that spoke to him [“let the author be resurrected to do what he is best at — write”]:
"As an author, it made me feel more responsible, that I should write again. Let the public discuss this court order and the value of justice in it. As an individual, I am still recovering from what I experienced. I am thinking of slowly writing again," Murugan told The Indian Express in his first interview after the judgment was announced.
Murugan had famously proclaimed his "death" as a writer when controversy around Madhorubagan erupted in 2015 (this was after its English translation was published). The novel tells the story of a childless couple in Tiruchengode, and described a 100-year-old temple festival on the night of which, men and women were allowed to copulate free of any qualms. It was this depiction that caused trouble with several groups, which demanded that the "offensive portions" be removed from the novel, and that Murugan issue a public apology.
While his supporters wanted Murugan to protest against these demands, the writer chose instead to withdraw from the literary scene, and figuratively put down his pen. He, however, continued to write poems occasionally.
However, the judgment in July revived his intention to write.
"The judgement gives me much happiness. It comforts a heart that had shrunk (and) wilted. I am trying to prop myself up holding on to the light of the last lines of the judgement," Murugan had said in a statement at the time.
"I will get up. It is just that my mind wishes to spend a little time in the joy of this moment. My thanks to friends who stood by me. My thanks also to friends who stood against me," he had added, sharing a short verse to mark the occasion:
A flower blooms/ after the big bang/ Sharp fragrance/ Sweet countenance/ Shining Splendour/ The flower would/ take up and establish/ everything.
In the interview with The Indian Express, Murugan touched on why he didn't feel protesting against the demands to ban his work was the right course of action. He said:
"Many expected me to fight back with statements and protests — in that typical manner... But I didn’t want to handle things in that manner as I didn’t know who my enemy was. I didn’t know whom to testify against."
The writer also admitted that he wasn't given to making speeches or living in the public eye — even a paper presentation, he said, took him "two months to prepare".
Asked to describe the hurt he felt when the people of Namakkal, his homeland, turned against him, Murugan said simply:
"I am neither an orator nor a loud thinker to describe my plight. All I have to tell, you may find in my poems."