Friday, June 29, 2012

Meena Kandaswamy's Poem on Gandhi Lands her into Trouble with the Literary Establishment in Kerala

Meena Kandaswamy's book of poems -- translated into Malayalam -- has been stirring up a hornet's nest in Kerala. It happened thusly. Meena Kandaswamy, poet and writer, who wrote this poem on Gandhi was invited by her publisher for the book's launch in Kerala. Eminent litterateur Sugatha Kumari was to be the chief guest at the book launch. Unfortunately, the whole gory details are still not with me at the time of writing this, she refused to attend as she found the Gandhi poem in bad taste. This has upped the ante of the literary establishment of Kerala, a state in which books of poetry are published prolifically and discussed and critiqued. Is there any other state, I don't know, please enlighten me. Thank God I was born in this state.

Now, there's a congress government ruling the state. Therefore the literary establishment is leaning a bit towards the centre, i.e., Congress. And any denigration of Gandhi would not be acceptable to the party which sees Gandhi as their patron saint. I have nothing against Gandhiji, whose writings I do admire and venerate.

Now for my considered and somewhat jaundiced point of view. I also don't have anything against Sugatha Kumari. (These admissions are getting a bit tedious. I really hate to do this.) I have respect for her poems. Well, Meena Kandaswamy (disclosure: she is a Facebook friend and we have exchanged a few comments) has a right to her artistic freedom to write a poem about Mahatma Gandhi. If someone has an issue with the poem it should be critiqued in a literary format, not by having abuses thrown at her, her morality, and her sexuality. Just my point of view.

I am @johnwriter on Twitter and John.Matthew on Facebook. I blog here. View my Youtube Channel Page. Read about my novel Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard.

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