Dalit writing in Tamil literary milieu is an inevitable historical need, said well-known writer Azhagiya Periyavan.
He was in the city to receive the Periyar Award conferred by Dravidar Kazhagam, recently.
There was a time in Tamil literature when it was filled with conventional style of writing. In mid-90s, writers from Dalit background grabbed the attention of the readers and Azhagiya Periyavan was one among them. His aesthetic way of writing keeps Azhagiya Periyavan an odd man out of other Dalit writers.
“Critics say that it is both my strength and weakness,” he said.
A native of Pernampet in Salem district, Azhagiya Periyavan, whose real name is Aravindan, is working as a teacher in a tribal school.
He talks about how he overcame his inferiority complex being a differently-abled and started voicing his views for Dalits.
“I was brought up at my mother’s house near my village. As I am partly disabled, I used to feel very inferior and stayed away from other children. Books were my only pass time then. I used to read around 200 to 300 books in a month,” he says.
He said, “After reading a lot, I was inspired to write. There were many others who had their names as Aravindan and when I searched for a pseudonym to avoid confusion, I found the name Azhagiya Periyavan in one of the books.”
His first novel Theettu appeared in a small journal Kanaiyaazhi was received well by the readers. His short story collections Thisai Ettum Suvargal Konda Gramam, poetry collections Arooba Nanju, Unakkum Enakkumaana Sol, essay collections Meelkonam, Kambalippoochi Iravu and a novel Thagappan Kodi, received accolades from both the readers and critics. He received the State Award for best novel in 2003.
One of his short story Kuradu, which was later made into a short film Nadandha Kathai, fetched an award in the Best Indian Short Film category at the International Short Film Festival. All of his works had an internal objective – to voice for Dalits.
“After my college days, I worked in an NGO for a while. At that time, we rescued more than 100 children who worked as bonded labours in beedi-rolling factories and tanneries. They were tied up with chains and made to work for more than 16 hours. And all those children were Dalits. From then on, I wrote to raise my voice for them. Writing for Dalits is a historical need,” he added.
So, what is his view on Periyar’s thoughts and ideologies? “Periyar’s ideologies have relevance even today. But he is still portrayed as a man who opposed religion. Re-reading and reviving his ideologies are necessary,” he said.