Pyre

Google Perumal Murugan if you haven’t heard the name before.

41FUUaOIvVL._AC_UL320_SR208,320_Here’s why should have heard the name before. An acclaimed writer wrote a book, offended a few who held a narrow view of what Hinduism is, burning of books and threats followed, and he was bullied into an angry silence. The books were recalled. He encouraged people to ask for refunds. The name of the book was One Part Woman. Had the matter gone to the court he would have won hands down but it wasn’t for the court to decide. It was in the hands of goons – who I’m sure hadn’t read the book and were narrated a hateful version of the book – who wanted to handle the issue themselves. He wrote in a moving Facebook post that the writer inside him had died, that he would no longer write. Fortunately for all of us, the literary suicide generated traction and he continues to write today. Thank God for that.
(Sections of One Part Woman. The story now wasn’t set in Tamil Nadu but in a country, maybe even a different dimension, a place far away from the world. He doesn’t mention exactly where.)

download.jpgPyre is another book of the same writer. It’s a brave book because it takes head-on the same religious establishment whose uninformed followers that had threatened to cut off his hands. Pyre is smallish story of a couple marrying outside caste and inviting the wrath of the entire village. The castes of the couple aren’t mentioned – a fair, upper-caste girl marries a dark, lower-caste man. In the story, it isn’t the upper castes who are miffed. Could it be he wanted to stay as far away from the purported custodians of the religion?
The story of Saroja and Kumaresan itself is brutal, haunting, and will leave you angry and heartbroken. To assuage the pain, you might even delude yourself into thinking that the caste system is a thing of the past, a social evil long eradicated. Embarrassingly enough, till until a few years ago I – like many others around me – didn’t see caste.
Of course, I don’t discriminate.
I would make friends with anyone.
Reservations are useless. I know a rich guy from a lower caste.

I came from a place of privilege and believed the lower caste kids around me were lucky they to have the surnames they did. They could get into any college they want! By and large, I was untouched by the caste-system. There were of course instances when kids would declare themselves Brahmins in the class with an air of unearned superiority; it would make me feel furious and bit unfortunate. But it would always pass. Sometimes I would read stray reports of honor killings here and there and would attribute it to a few madmen than recognize the rot in our society. People like me, city-bred and from reasonably good institutes, seldom see the caste system in its’ true, ugly form, unless someone shows it to us. Like this book does – it exists, people are killed, marginalized, destroyed, and it’s not an anomaly, it’s the norm.

P.S. – Typed on my phone. Excuse the brevity and the errors.

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