Where do you stand on the raging controversy over Jallikattu?
Jallikattu is an integral part of Tamil tradition and culture. There are records of Jallikattu in ancient times, like Sangam literature, as well as in modern literature. There is also anthropological evidence to prove this.
That may be true, but what about the animal activists’ plea that it is cruel to the bulls?
I am a farmer and we live with cattle all through the year. Jallikattu is just playing with the bulls only one day in a year, I can’t understand how it is cruelty. We have a huge meat industry where cattle are mercilessly slaughtered every day, why don’t the activists stop that? I think there is some other motive behind it.
What could it be?
I don’t know that. These games between men and cattle have several forms but they only want to put a stop to Jallikattu. There is, for instance, Manjuverattu, where the ox is made to run through the village streets. There are bull races. If you stop Jallikattu you have stop all these festivals too.
Some compare Jallikattu to the Spanish bull fight where the bulls are hurt to incite them to go wild.
But Jallikattu is not like that at all, it’s only a sport. The bulls which take part in it are trained, as are the men who play with them. It is also not as if no changes have taken place in Jallikattu in the last 2,000 years. It may have been cruel to the animals before but in the current form, many precautions are taken, there is no violence to the bulls, deaths are very rare.
But there is danger involved in the sport, for the bulls as well as the men.
Two years ago a cricketer died in Australia when he was hit by the ball, did they ban cricket? Accidents and deaths happen in several sports but the games are not blamed for that. Many sportspersons are caught on doping charges, but you ban the person from the sport, not the sport itself.
How much are artists, painters, writers affected by the politics of the day?
Artists may not be involved in politics, but to say that they are in their own universe is not honest. Art for art’s sake is an old notion. A writer may create a world away from politics but that does not mean he is not influenced by it.
Your work, particularly, is very political, you take up issues.
I don’t think my work is going to bring about any major changes. But yes, I will keep writing this way.
What about censorship?
Censorship has always been there, it has perhaps become sharper now. But this might give me the impetus to create my work in a different form, different from what I have been doing so far.
And social media? It was your FB post which made you a household name.
It’s very important. There may be some who are misusing social media. We should create consciousness about this misuse, not avoid it.
How good, according to you, are writers in Tamil literature today?
In the new millennium, many poets and novelists started to produce great work in Tamil. But there may be a dearth of short story writers. At present, there are at least 15 or so serious writers in Tamil.