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Jaipur Literature Festival 2013: Mahashweta Devi urges people to “swim against the tide”

Resham Sengar

Jaipur: People thronged to the Diggi Palace in hordes to hear and interact with eminent Indian socialist, Mahashweta Devi, who was here to kick-start Asia’s largest literature festival by delivering a key-note ‘O to Live Again’ and a session titled ‘Of Women, outcastes and peasants’ with her publisher and confidante Naveen Kishore by her side.

The headstrong activist-cum-novelist spoke about her life, her broken marriages, her zest to help in uplifting the tribals in Bengal during an hour long session that drew a lot of her followers and admirers.

Talking about her life she said that her initial days as a writer were not a cakewalk as she had to pay a heavy price for picking up the pen. She stated that there were people around her who thought of her work as mere reportage. It was her mother Dharitri devi who supported her through and through.

The 87-year-old author said that she was barely in touch with any of her contemporaries in her heydays and prefers to remain aloof from the intellectual circle even now.

Mahashweta devi summarised her struggle-filled life by this proverbial thought: “Everyone swims with the tide; no one wants to swim against it.”

When asked by one of the young audience members about the kind of language she could prescribe to begin writing, the author replied that an ideal way to go about pursuing one’s writing dreams is by adopting a language which comes naturally and in which one dreams.

The December 16 Delhi gang rape that saw nationwide protests against the rising rate of crime against women was a one-of-its kind movement which has given some hope for a good change in our society. But some sections of society said that no one cares to raise a voice against the rape of a Dalit woman.

But Mahashweta devi, who is widely known for her strongly feminist writings, firmly believes that people should be concerned for women from all walks of life. “Perhaps not (that the protests are a sign of hope). But now that this question has been raised, even if a Dalit woman is raped and brutalised, we should protest for her as well. We should always protest against any inhuman action.”