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GLF: Being a language writer, do you think you are not getting due recognition at the national level?
A. Well, I am not a fiction writer or a poet: I am a translator and a social science researcher writing about social change in Kerala. In both, I am happy with the appreciation I have received at the national level, which sometimes exceeds that which my own society has given me. If awards are the yardstick by which we measure recognition, then no, I have not been recognized at any level

GLF: Can literature influence social life? Do you think a writer should be socially responsible?
A. Literature does not just influence social life, it is part of social life. Just as we are bound to live in ethical, self-reflexive, democratic ways, so should be our writing. Writers should be able to contribute to the never ending discussion on how to deepen our humanity and reach out into the larger world of sentient beings, and also renew and add to the aesthetic resources of human society. The aesthetic and the political are not identical but they are connected. The writer should be able to radically rearrange this connection in the interest of speaking truth to power.

GLF: Can literary festivals make progressive changes to the language literature?
A. I am not really a fan of literary festivals as they are conducted now; too often they are spaces created and managed by market interests which now shape the field of literature and the literary public, if you ask me, rather too closely. However, that such festivals are now organized by citizens’ and readers’ organizations brings much hope. Such gatherings should not however replicate the hierarchies and cliques that structure our literary public but do the opposite — expose and critique them.

GLF: Did you ever felt ill-treated or deprived of your due for being a writer in vernacular languages (vis-Ã -vis the so called mainstream writers who chose English as their medium)?
A. I write in both English and Malayalam, and my experience is that I am neglected more in Malayalam than in English. I have, as a researcher, stubbornly stuck to my identity as a researcher of a regional society, as a Malayali researcher inquiring about my society and culture; this limits the possibilities of both visibility and recognition at the national level where one needs to put up at least a semblance of addressing ‘national’ issues. But in Kerala, I find that leading male intellectuals and others do use my ideas often but do not really engage with my work or even cite me appropriately. But that is hardly surprising because I am not part of any power network in the Malayali literary world. But none of this has made me feel frustrated, because I have never sought fame and praise. That my ideas are being used, that they are live in our intellectual world, is good enough for me. As a young woman seeking an intellectual life, all I wanted was to forge a new language for speaking critically about gender as a form of power in Malayali society and put together an archive for feminism here – those I have achieved. Praise and rewards are secondary.

GLF: There are numerous glitzy events packed by glitterati being celebrated in the country under the guise of literary festivals in up-market show places. What do you think about `Gateway Litfest’ and how is it different from such up-market events?
A. I have answered this above. These places bore me.

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