Netherfield Ball – Martyr Writer Perumal Murugan Ends Exile With a Courageous Poem on Cowards, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library
The party secrets.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The ear whisperers are nowhere to be seen. Perhaps this is not their world.
One evening The Delhi Walla attends a gathering at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. The solemn-faced people have assembled to mark the end of the brief self-imposed exile of Perumal Murugan, the martyr-writer from Tamil Nadu. At a time when the present right-wing regime is overthrowing the principles of the established order, these left-leaning intellectuals are said to be suffering morally. Indeed, they all are looking as pious as the early Christians.
Probably as a mark of disdain for the ruling polyester class, a great number of women are in handloom saris and artisanal sling bags– author Nilanjana S. Roy looks radiant in a blue sari and a black & white necklace. She walks in with husband, business columnist Devangshu Datta. They both are holding hands like Lodhi Garden lovers (see photo 2 below).
Staying true to her ideological loyalties, the veteran black-haired journalist Nailini Singh makes a devastating statement against the hand-woven saris by arriving in a spotlessly black kurta. A nationalist, she looks as ageless as a Hindi film heroine.
Regrettably, most men look sweaty and unwashed. One daring man, however, stands out in a moustache that might be considered blasphemous in this sensitive caste-conscious country (see photo 4).
Mr Murugan is dressed in white. That color sits most impressively on the hair of a woman who has never been seen earlier in any of the parties—she is the evening’s most charismatic face (see last photo).
Mr Murugan’s astonishingly rapid rise in the capital’s literary circle can be ascertained by the presence of important and high-ranking journalists and publishing house editors in the auditorium: Ellen Barry of The New York Times, R. Sivapriya of Juggernaut Books (looking very distressed), writer and journalist Binoo K John. Author Patrick French is also sighted. Although of British extraction, he has a stake in the former colony. His wife, the coy Meru Gokhale of Penguin Random House, is Mr Murugan’s publisher.
Also spotted: poet Ashok Vajpeyi, NDTV news anchor Sreenivasan Jain, BBC’s Soutik Biswas, pioneering journalist Madhu Trehan and the charming cookbook writer Lathika George, who is with her lovely daughter, literary editor Rajni George.
The somber-faced Mr Murugan begins the evening well by introducing his new book of poetry. Alas, he goes on to recite a courageous but unflattering poem on cowards, which becomes deeply distressing to all the cowards in the hall, including me.
For the greater cause
1. (Perumal Murugan)
2. (Devangshu Datta, Nilanjana S. Roy)
3. (Patrick French)
5. (Nalini Singh)
8. (Binoo K John)
9. (Rajni George, Lathika George)
10. (Ellen Barry)
11. (R. Sivapriya)