S. Hareesh, the Malayalam novelist, should wait till the hatred ebbs

Malayalam writer S. Hareesh has declared that he will stop serialising his novel Meesha (Moustache), in the Mathrubhumi weekly, with its third instalment. In his letter to the publisher, he had spoken about several issues, the most significant of all being the “fringe groups misusing specific content of the novel to market unethical ideas.”

Used out of context

There was a huge furore over a dialogue between the two characters in the serial. Authors/ novelists use dialogue as a tool for various narratives. This is often a strategy to criticise the established, accepted norms. A dialogue in Meesha, where two men talk about women who visit temples regularly, should have been one such. Those who pulled it out of context to create problems might have known this better. They would know, and yet they resorted to it only to expand their influence. This was clearly a ploy to establish their presence by creating an artificial issue to exploit public emotion. It is a cheap trick to sustain on negative popularity by creating a controversy over something that is very normal and unproblematic.

It is only to be expected that they will continue to drag out the issue as long as possible. To suit their lowly intentions, a part of novel has been used out of context.

Under the circumstances, the problems faced by Mr. Hareesh are deep. His family is abused online. When harassment comes from all sides through all possible modes of communication, it can break any person. Those are cruel statements from inane minds that know nothing about ethics or morality. One must be stone-hearted to face them; a writer is not.

Complaints have been lodged with the Women’s Commission and several police stations. Though there hasn’t been any action against him, the writer is still obliged to write an explanatory letter, leading to stressful situations in his everyday life. Process then becomes the punishment. The normal proceedings might require him to travel to different places. For a writer, it is hardly possible to spend time and days on something like this.

Mr. Hareesh has now declared that he has withdrawn the novel, and that he has no intention of publishing it in book form for now. There perhaps can’t be a more pragmatic decision than this. In doing so, Mr. Hareesh has denied the opportunity to fringe groups that had hoped to exploit some lines of his novel and gain influence. It should not be viewed as a decision taken out of fear. At one level it is an intellectual decision so that the novel does not become a tool in the hands of the wrongdoers.

The author has also stated that he has no intention of initiating legal action against his detractors and that he is not ‘ready’ to lose his life in the long-drawn-out judicial processes. This is a stinging criticism of our judiciary. Our judicial processes are tiring for the common man. Entering the premises of a court can become a nightmare after one has experienced it even once. For a writer, the processes are both antagonistic and alien. Who wants to be the bait anyway?

Mr. Hareesh says in his letter that he is ‘too weak to fight the rulers of the country’. These are not words of helplessness or cowardice. That is the stark reality. Writers often do not have the support of either an organisation or a political party. The independent mind of a writer comes in the way of working within the framework of an organisation. Writers do not have the strength to fight against authority except through their writings.

Meesha has resided with Mr. Hareesh as an idea since his childhood and began taking shape in the last five years. Yet, now he says he will hold its release till ‘he feels that the social hatred has subsided and society is ready to accept it’.

A time of animosity

Society does not understand that literature is nothing but a reconsideration of life. If it did, it would try to reconsider the writing even if it didn’t like it. The human mind is a conglomeration of many emotions. We live in an era where hatred and animosity are pulled out, and nurtured. Neither hatred nor animosity allows anything to be debated or explored. It is only natural for an author to wonder if he should even write for a society that does not allow any reconsideration.

Writers, artists and social activists have expressed solidarity with Mr. Hareesh. It is a good sign that both the ruling and opposition parties have stood by the writer. This nation-wide support might help him overcome his loneliness and give him mental strength. It might give him the strength to write other stories, if not this novel. It will require time to allow his characters to evolve as they are and to do away with the need to keep an eye on them. He shall take his time to heal. Let us wait!

I can empathise more than anybody else with Mr. Hareesh and his current state of mind — given my own experience of having to cross several days filled with darkness and pain. I understand it was tough taking the decision that he took. I see in him a reflection of myself. For now, I wish to hold his hand and tell him: “Time will come when hatred will subside. We shall wait.”

Perumal Murugan is a Tamil writer. His novels include ‘Madhorubhagan (One Part Woman’). This article has been translated from the Tamil by Krithika Srinivasan

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