"I did not go to school after 5th standard. At that time (pre independence days) the graduates were burning their certificates in protest against the British, so I thought why struggle to get a degree and end up burning it? At the age of 20 when everybody becomes a communist, I quit the communist party. I joined them earlier and quit them when I was 20. While quitting I told them I am quitting so I can be a true communist. As they say, once a communist, always a communist. I became a communist on reading the works of Barathi, and quit them again due to Barathi. Where there is no freedom of the individual, I can't be there.
This price is an endorsement of my standing in Tamil literature. If even today I am being considered as a force in Tamil Literature, it is because my writings disturb Tamils; question them; tease them. When I told my communist comrades that I want to write in the party magazine, I was laughed at. "You don't know Tamil" they said. I replied, "I may not know Tamil, but Tamil will know me soon". Though I replied bravely, I understood the truth in their laughter and learnt Tamil from a pandit. But I refused to write the exam and was saved, otherwise I would have become a Tamil Teacher.
All my characters are manifestations of me. I try to think like them and become like them, sometimes I end up being better than them. Isn't that what happens in real life too? I am writing means things are being written through me. I am a product of this scoiety, the society writes through me.
At one point of time, I felt that I had no equals as a writer. So I stopped writing, to see whether new writers arrive on the scene. They did, and this is how the society progresses. I cannot say the glory of Tamil literature ends with me, because it is stupid. The language will live without you and me, no body can kill this language. So stop trying to save the language, come out of the parochial mindset. Enjoy all the languages of the world.
You want to know how to win the Jnanpith award? Simple, stop writing. Let your work speak instead of you. If your works are discussed even after you stopped writing, the awards will follow."
Snippets from the stirring talk by Jeyakanthan in the Madras book club's function felicitating him for winning the Jnanpith award. This is the first time I am seeing him in person and listening to him. He justifies all the hyperbole. His usage of Tamil is exemplary, I hope I have been able to capture the essence of it in my translation.
A double bonus was the introduction by Asokamithran, himself a great short story writer. I have attended a couple of meetings where Asokamithran spoke, but never have I seen him praising anybody so much.
Thanks Ramnath for the invite.