28 February, 2021

A Coward Talks To The World

Not fearless, but not fearful—Perumal Murugan’s scathing gaze alights on himself, nature and still life to evoke the rankness of the hounded artist’s life

Illustration by Sajith Kumar
A Coward Talks To The World

Who, I wonder, is a coward? All of Perumal Murugan’s poems are not about the cow­­ard but the tone, melody, meaning and the implied in this book force us to ref­­lect on that one word. Is the coward a valueless creature? Is he gutless? Does he need to change? Is a coward just someone we mock? And the direct question: is Perumal Murugan a coward?

As we move from word to word, phrase to phrase, poem to poem and travel through 2015 and 2016 (the day/month/year mentioned after every poem), with Murugan’s words carrying us through this period, the coward emerges as a creative spirit. A quiet seeker, much like Murugan’s snail. He moves slowly, in silence, at his own pace, leaving behind a shadow, a gli­mmering trail. He lives away from the spo­­tlight, but his is a beautiful mind that allows the darkness around him to charge his imagination. We try to squash him, poke fun at him, ridicule him. In response, he just slips back into his shell, and rem­ains still. And if he is an artist, his canvas, melodies, rhythms or words are...

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