TSC Interviews | Dr. Pasunoori Ravinder

Short story writer from Telangana, Dr Ravinder Pasunoori had won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar in 2015 for his collection of stories titled ‘Out of Coverage Area’ in the Telugu language category. Chandramohan S. interviews him for TSC.

Dr. Pasunoori Ravinder
Photo Credits: Chandramohan S.

CS: You have brought glory to Dalit literature. Congratulations! Could you spell out your evolution as a writer?

PR: ‘Hunger makes one learn everything’ is a prominent saying in Telugu. In my case, self-respect has made me a writer.  I am born in a Dalit caste where pain, happiness and everything is expressed artistically. Many of our family members are already artists prior to me such as singers, drama artists and so on. Especially my mother is a folk singer. The area where I was born and brought up is full of left-wing movements. As I was born in such an environment, the movements helped me to turn into artist, poet and writer. A lot of valuable Dalit literature came out condemning the Karamchedu, and Chunduru massacre on Telugu land. That not only influenced literary world but social movements as well.  Like this, by 90s, it played a philosophical role for the youth like me to turn into a writer.

Initially, like others I also tried to write from class angle. But it did not seem so satisfying.  Mainly, I did not find my life in the literature that I studied. So, I thought of writing about myself. The thought of writing about Dalits like me, turned me into a writer.  

CS: Your stories are written in the local Telangana dialect. Can you tell me more about it?

PR: As there is caste domination in the society, likewise there is caste authority in the literature. Mainly there is caste to language; that is Pandit’s language. They decided to set only that language as standard in literature. That is why we had to bear the language which is not ours. So I did not like it. So I thought to write in the language of mine only and (I am ) writing as such.  I decided to write in the language that my Dalit mother speaks at home, which has not undergone any domination and influence. In such manner, Telangana Dalit (Madiga) language appeared in my stories. In a way, this is a kind of protest for self-respect. This is the reason that my stories have attracted general Dalit and Bahujan readers than mainstream scholars. 

CS: The title of your short story collection is "Out of coverage area". It sounds profound and poetic.
PR: In fact, it's the modern -era telephone terminology. The idea was that the present generation will understand easily if such a title is given. I thought  the concerns of today's Dalits should reflect in it. That is why, ‘out of coverage area’ seemed to be the right title. In fact, those who live outside villages are Dalits only.  We all are living in out of coverage area itself. Hence many critics appraised that it is the correct title.    

CS: Do you consider yourself a Dalit writer? What are the specifics of the subjectivity of  a "Dalit Writer" in your opinion? 

PR: Those who wish to write about Dalits’ life from the perspective of the Dalits and their well-being can only become Dalit writers. Many among Dalits, for the appreciation of mainstream, leave their lives and bring out liberal writings. In the same way, non-Dalits also write about the life of Dalits in superficial manner.
This does not come under the range of Dalit literature. Dalits writing about Dalits will only become Dalit literature.   
In this context, Dalit writer means those who can be fully dedicated to Dalit class. They should have respect not only towards their social life but also towards their culture, language and other things. In the title of my collection of stories, I have given the tag line as Telangana Dalit stories.

CS: Have you ever felt constrained to write "politically correct" stories? Do you have any major literary influences?

PR: Starting from Perumal Murugan to general Dalit writers, we have been facing challenges from the Hindutva Brahminical society. This society does not like us talking facts. Because of which I get several threatening calls when I write about caste. They mostly come from the upper-castes. I get amused at their dilemma. Sometimes I feel sad. Even then I try to correct them. Politics and literature are not separate. Writing itself is a political activity. Therefore, I am ready to face any kind of disturbances while writing about my caste. There is strong impact of Dalit and Bahujan writers on me; mainly the influence of the writers during the Dalit literary movement. During their times they wrote about the caste discrimination against Dalit in villages, I am writing stories of caste discrimination in towns of modern era.
In the coming times, I will try to write with much more responsibility.

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