M. Mukundan is one of the pioneers of modernity in Malayalam literature, belonging to Mahe, part of Pondicherry Union Territory in South India. The renowned author is known as the "story-teller of Mayyazhi" in Kerala. he French government has also awarded M.Mukundan the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 1998 for his contribution to literature.
Manipal Dubai Blog caught up with the author for an exclusive interview at the fair on 25th November 2011.
Is it your first time here in the UAE, how’s the experience been so far?
No I’ve been here many times but it is my first time at the Sharjah International Book Fair. The experience has been a good one as I feel at home because there are so many people from Kerala here, it’s just like walking in Trivandrum or Cochin as you come across malayalees everywhere.
I like Dubai cause it is a very modern country at the same time it is very traditional so there’s no break between tradition and modernity and I find that very interesting.
When did you start writing stories? What inspired you?
Honestly, I don’t know, I do know what I’ve always written. I started with short stories, I remember writing my first real story when I was 14 years but even before that I had written several stories which I didn’t consider good enough as I didn’t know how to write.
Do you remember the first one?
The first story was about a cobbler. It was a small village so there was a cobbler and he used to sleep on the pavement side in front of a shop. In Kerala it always rains, torrential rains. All the time it rains. One day I found this poor guy dead, frozen. It shocked me. Out of that shock, I wrote this story. You write best, when you come across something that disturbs you or when you feel strongly about something.
Being one of the pioneers, what do you think of the contemporary Malayalam literature?
It’s progressing. In Kerala, literacy is very high. Traditionally Kerala is like that, writers play a role in social changes and all and people expect a lot from writers.
You have been writing for so long. What do you have to say about the reading habits of youngsters with the advent of technology?
It has become a problem now. When I started writing long ago, everybody used to read because there was no choice, there was nothing else to do. Now we have television and the internet so reading has reduced. But there are people who read, it may not be everybody but there is a section of the young people who still read.
What do you have to say about the e-books and its role today especially when it comes to book translation from Malayam to English or any other language?
Translations are coming, but the main problem we face is that we never get any good translators. As foreign writers, we need good trained translators. Translation is not even a subject or taught in many universities barring a few exceptions, for example in Delhi, there’s a section where they teach you to translate. But that’s not there in Kerala. That’s the main problem foreign writer’s face.
Coming to e-books, it’s not yet there but it is going to come very soon. My publisher, DC books has already started working on e-books. I think it’s good for writers as they will have more readers thanks to a click of a mouse, our work will be available all over the world.
Have you ever thought of taking up any social networks like Facebook or Twitter?
I have a Facebook account but I don’t go there everyday because its time consuming. What happens is that if I respond to one request then I get 100 other requests based on that.
Do you use social media to keep in touch with your fans?
That is not possible because there are so many people who come to you and ask you questions- that is the problem I face as I land up spending a lot of time online. If you answer one question there will be more questions coming to you, it multiplies. I’m very selective. But if I don’t answer to one reply then that fellow feels bad so I avoid it as much as I can by visiting these networks occasionally.
Tell us more about your latest book, “Stories of Delhi”?
My latest book is going to be launched here. It’s about Delhi. I lived and worked there for over 35 years. I like the place, I’ve grown with the city for when I arrived the city was very small at that time now it’s a huge city. So whatever I experienced, I put it together in this novel.
What advice would you like to share with writers in this region?
Everyone should continue to write inspite of internet, television, we should interact. The world is becoming one. This Book Fair is a kind of place where people come and exchange ideas.
By Neha Kalvani