Most writers often fail to stay abreast the complexities of the discourses they intend to kindle. But rarely, is there a writer, a literary figure that stays ahead, suturing the two worlds, in which they exist in different, yet similar ways. Mahasweta Devi was as much an activist in her works as she was without them. Her oeuvre was educated by those who found no utterance in the mainstream narratives of the country.
Born in Dhaka, to a lineage of intellectuals, she shifted to West Bengal after the partition and found in Kolkata a home that she would come to love, and eventually also inspire.
Devi was a life-long supporter of the tribals and consistently wrote against the industrialisation of rural areas. In her work, one finds the voice, of the dishevelled lower classes, of the many monotonous, yet important facets that make up a side of India we have chosen to leave behind in getting along with our city-styles and city-style-cultures. While most writers have to step out of their literary purview, to address the world with a politics that it may well understand, Devi spoke from within her characters, her stories, her fiction, that was at all times derived from within the vitality of what is real, and what isn’t. In her words the unheard, the dispossessed, the overlooked, the undermined found a voice, and what a beautiful voice it was.
Despite being local, and native in the subjects that they addressed, Devi’s work was marked with an awareness that stoked in the reader the universal. The social import of her writing has been talked about, but what made her a worthy recipient of the Magsaysay Award was the political import that supplied to the many issues Devi had raised over the years, a distinctively learned voice. Her affection for the tribals, and the downtrodden never corrupted the impassioned way in which she worked with them. And in her enduring requests to the nation to take note of these people, she was among a select few, a handful of writers, who refused to filter their vocation of what their country had become, and the many instances of injustice it had come to collect as its history.
In a year when TM Krishna has been recently awarded the Magsaysay for his efforts towards democratising Carnatic music, Mahasweta Devi’s death leaves a void in the literary world we will find hard to fill in the coming years. But through her amplified vision of the challenged and the unfortunate of the country, her legacy shall build, probably even on the lack of words that her absence will now commit.
Updated Date: Jul 28, 2016 17:12 PM