Monday, September 18, 2006

Encounters with Writers: The “Writer”

This would be the right time to tell of how my crush on Martin Amis had naturally begun to dissipate a couple of years from onset. And of how the actual death knell was sounded by hearing him speak at the Oxford Union--cantankerous (instead of revolutionary) troll-sized (instead of larger than life), and with a ridiculous head of Trumped up ™ hair.

Instead, i’m going to record my fleeting encounter with the person i merely knew as “the Writer.”

It’s the mid nineties, and i’m traveling with my parents deep in Tamil Nadu, south of Trichy. We stop to refuel at a village, largish--home to a few thousands--called Aravakurichi.

Aravakurichi had been in the news all that week. Discontented with their elected officials, and unhappy with the politicians who were up for election to the state assembly, nearly 200 (182?) of Aravakurichi’s citizens had decided to put themselves on the ballot. The logic being that faced with a deeply fractured and divided vote, the two rival political parties would have to put up candidates the citizens could take more seriously.

It wasn’t surprising that i met one of the candidates before long--she was yelling at someone that Jayalalitha, then Chief Minister wannabe, was a whore (pathu rooba vukku mundanai virikiraval--woman who undoes her sari for ten rupees). Catching my fascinated gaze, she then yelled at me--in a friendlier manner--to tell me that she was definitely going to win the election.

I don’t remember if I voiced the “how?” But she proceeded to introduce me to her brother with striking economy of gesture, i.e., by pointing at him--and telling me that he was a WRITER who would write for her and the reason why she was going to win.

[I'm afraid i come off as an ingenue with a let-them-eat-cake level of insensitivity in the following exchange. And i have nothing to offer in my defense except for the fact that i had just begun teaching myself Tamil.*]

This was exciting--
He’s a writer? What has he written? Do i know him? (Born-to-be-a-writer-groupie voice)
He writes in Tamil. (Giving me a look like I’d suddenly gone daft)
Oh, he’s a Tamil writer? Is it novels? (Racking my brain for names of Trichy-based writers)
He writes slogans for the party. (How daft are you?)
So he’s a party-writer? Speeches, slogans, pamphlets? (This is still interesting)
No. (Explaining in an earth-is-round voice) He writes slogans on the walls.

Her brother painted political graffiti on walls.

It made me feel quite small at the time--the realization that mere literacy was so prized; now, it actually feels inspiring that i've met at least one writer who knew exactly how he was going to wield his writing to challenge power.


* And perhaps failed to differentiate between "ezhuthalar" (writer) and "ezhuthurar" (writes).


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