"My writings will be never the same. A censor is seated inside me and he is testing every word that is born within me. His constant caution that a word may be misunderstood and I'm unable to shake him off," said acclaimed Tamil author Perumal Murugan in New Delhi on Monday.
This was Murugan's first public speech after announcing his "death" over social media after a controversy broke out in 2015 over his book "Madhorubagan" (One part woman). The book earned the wrath of some Hindu groups and castes and copies of his books were burned at the town of Tiruchengode, where the novel is set.
However, in July 2016, the Madras High Court quashed all criminal cases filed against the author.
In a moving statement read out after the release of his news book, a collection of 200 poems titled "Kozhayin Paadalkal" (Songs of a Coward), at the Nehru Memorial Museum And Library, Murugan said that it was the court verdict that propelled him to resume writing.
"The question of whether a word or a sentence in a judicial verdict should determine if I write or not remains in my mind. If a faceless force can put a full stop to writing, can't a line in a judicial verdict bolster writing? Moreover, the imperative 'write' suits my present state of mind and is a cause for happiness," he said, adding that thus he resolved to resume writing and start publishing.
"The publication of this book marks this beginning," he said.
Talking about the self-imposed exile, the author said that it was poetry that saved him from despair.
"Between December 2014 and June 2016 I couldn't so much as scratch a line in the first three months. As though the fingers of my heart had become numb. I couldn't read a thing. Even when I turned the newspaper my eyes would scan the print but my mind would not absorb a word," he reminisced.
"I wallowed in a dark hole without the urge to see or talk to anybody. But as I ruminated over my existence, there came a certain instant when the sluice gates were breached. I began to write. I chronicled the moment when I felt like a rat, dazzled by the light, burrowing itself into its hole," he added.
Invoking Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, Murugan said that though the court asked him not to live in fear, he finds it tough. "The learned judges have said that 'I should not live under fear'. But my old teacher, the great Thiruvalluvar has said, 'Folly meets fearful ills with fearless heart; To fear where cause of fear exists is wisdom's part',"
Murugan, who prefers to stay away from sensationalism also said that he accepted the invitation of the publishers to express his gratitude to those who lent support to him.
"During the nightmarish time...writers -- from Tamilnadu, from other parts of India and from across the world -- stood by me, extending their support in various ways. Across the country voices were raised in support of freedom of expression and against intolerance...I accepted this invitation to speak here only to express my gratitude to those voices," he said.
Stressing that his written words will speak more now, Murugan also requested the media to allow him privacy.
"It is silence that gives me strength now. I'll write to gain further strength. My request therefore to the media and organisers of lit fests is this: Please do not ask me to speak. Let me be quiet. And write. I shall speak to you through my written words," he added..
Later, in a discussion with author Nilanjana Roy, Murugan noted that his writings have always dealt with the issue of castes. "In my writings, I have dealt with relationship between castes and conflicts between various castes. I believe no writer can write single word in defence of castes," he said.