An unalterable reality: dealing with detractors is a part of Life!

There’s no point in killing your creativity and stifling who you are to please others. You live when you do what you love doing. If you stop doing that, then you merely exist, you don’t live!
The Tamil writer Perumal Murugan is in the eye of storm in Tamil Nadu. One of his works, Madhorubhagan, has come under fire from Hindu outfits who feel it should be banned and Murugan arrested. The book has also been translated into English by Penguin and is titled One Part Woman. The fundamentalists allege that it shows Lord Shiva in poor light. Murugan, on the other hand, has been defending his work saying it is a love story of a couple, Kali and Ponna, who are unable to conceive a child. Societal pressures cast a shadow on their relationship and Murugan tells their story set in Thiruchengode of the past.
Over the last couple of weeks the protests over Murugan’s book have turned ugly – copies of Madhorubhagan have been burnt and the decibel level against Murugan has been high. Yesterday Murugan, in utter frustration, decided to quit writing altogether. “Perumal Murugan, the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He also has no faith in rebirth. An ordinary teacher, he will live as P. Murugan. Leave him alone,” he posted on his facebook Page.
To me, Murugan’s reaction is emotional. This will only accentuate his pain and prolong his suffering. This is a classic case of inability to deal with people who practice value systems that are different from your own. So, you end up quitting in a huff. You want to sacrifice your joy, in an act of inverted martyrdom, in the hope that your action will appeal emotionally to the conscience of your detractors. The brutal truth is it will not. Please understand that if someone is your detractor, it is only because that someone has a different value system than your own, has few or no scruples, and has a conscience which is on an endless vacation. Appealing to or trying to communicate with such people is trying to do a data transfer between two devices via Bluetooth, when one of the device’s Bluetooth option is turned off or is simply not turning on. It is from personal experience that I say that inverted martyrdom does not work. I have voluntarily sacrificed opportunities, entitlements and given up what’s legitimately due to me because I have wanted to emotionally appeal to people who were playing plain dirty. And every time I did that, I was hoping that my actions would transform them. But each time my efforts came to a naught and I ended up giving up on what was logically, legitimately mine. Inverted martyrdom is the act of sacrifice that people indulge in to prove a point, to demonstrate their goodness and righteousness to the world around them. Unfortunately, inverted martyrdom achieves nothing – it is like talking to wall. You just end up berating yourself!

Murugan has done precisely that. His decision to give up writing – something which gave him joy and which was his very Life – is something he must seriously review. In fact, in a recent interview to Akila Kannadasan of The Hindu, Murugan has said, “I am a writer first. I started teaching since I couldn’t make a living out of writing. Writing is my jeevan (Life). Teaching is my jeevanam (bread and butter).”

The Murugan drama offers us all, who are dealing with detractors in some context or the other all the time, a valuable lesson: Dealing with detractors is a part of Life. You simply can’t escape it. And it definitely is part of walking the road less trodden, or taking the creative path. Remember that your detractors revel in making you feel weak and impotent. You don’t need to necessarily fight them. Because to fight them you have to stoop to their levels. And that’s what will weaken you. Instead, you just need to stand there and keep doing what you always do – which is, live your Life fully, do what you love doing and refuse to cower, refuse to capitulate. In the face of integrity of Purpose, I have discovered, no destabilizing force can ever thrive. And integrity of Purpose is the ability to go on, no matter what challenges you are faced with, doing what you love doing.