Prose | Address following Sahitya Academy Award by Mercy Margaret

It began like a small drop of water, with one small step. Today, the journey has brought me to stand before such an august gathering of people in this city. It´s like a movie reel running before my eyes. 

To stand in front of you today, with a heart filled with immense pleasure, is the result of several sleepless nights of effort and sacrifice.

First of all, let me extend my most humble greetings to all those who are present here. I also extend my heartfelt gratitude to the jury of the Kendra Sahitya Academy for honouring me with this award and for encouraging several poets like me.

Although it has been about six months since this award was announced I still keep receiving congratulations and words of appreciation. People often ask how I feel about the award. When they inquire about these things, I notice an enormous love in their eyes. I even notice that they search for happiness in my eyes. Almost for a week after the announcement was made, there was a flood of phone calls and messages on Facebook and Whatsapp leaving me almost breathless with happiness.

The fact that I had earned so many well-wishers made me feel happier than the award itself. In fact, it's the poetry that has endeared me to all. This award brought me even closer to them more than ever.

That´s indeed showering with love, the love which made most of them feel as if they had won this award themselves. What can I give them back in exchange except love? I am indebted to God for having brought me onto this earth with a purpose. I am indebted to my parents who made me kneel down and pray for my books and education when I was small. There have been several people who have instilled in me a sense of determination and values to uphold in life. I don´t really know how to express my gratitude to them. My gratitude to my teachers who put up with my naughtiness affectionately and filled my hands with well-lit burning words.  To Mark Zuckerberg for offering a wonderful platform like Facebook.  My heartfelt gratitude to my companion, friend and husband who is there in every step I take as my first critic and guide always encouraging me to produce quality writing. It´s my duty to thank everybody that has been a source of encouragement and inspiration in my life.

Having been born in a Christian family with no background of any literary discourse at home this comes as a surprise even to me. It´s not to say that I have made a great achievement, nor does this award will change anything in my attitude towards life. I consider it as an acknowledgement for planting another sapling in my literary garden.  It has only a humbling effect on me. Undoubtedly, it´s an important literary break for me. It has become an obligation now to learn more and more. To have more caring people around.

Nowadays, it´s difficult to find love and affection among people. Nobody seems to have time to listen to the other. There used to be a sort of companionship once. All human relations have become commercial today. Instead of coming closer to one another we are drifting apart. Distances between people have become longer and words have become scarce.

A Marxist will wage a long-time revolution. A middle-class girl after concluding two major journeys of her life –one before marriage and the other after marriage, will embark upon an eternal journey of companionship and turbulence. A sailor will embark upon his prolonged journey towards an unseen edge of the water. A scientist convinced that life is an endless evolution will drown himself in an interminable search. One defines life as a struggle, another as survival and yet another as a journey or an eternal quest, but everyone will keep moving. But they come back as if they have been reminded of something.

The pleasure of reaching the goal together, in one single leap, laying hands on one another´s shoulder or running over the puddles amidst peels and laughter, a childhood we left behind, a life, a language, a feeling –they all transform into a nostalgia.

In childhood, the puddles formed by the first showers of rain on the muddy streets used to greet us warmly as if they were meeting us after a long gap. We used to look at ourselves in the same puddles wondering how we looked when we laughed. It was great fun.

Haven´t we laid roads with coal-tar topping to run our cars? Where can you find those puddles now? 

Where are the puddles that remind us today how we looked like when we laughed at our own reflections in them? Where are the puddles that remind us with a heap of words that we are human beings?

What we left behind while walking is our own life, our own language. It´s the word that tells us that a human being is still alive. So long as the words flow like a stream, we remain alive. But we are abandoning the words. We are losing people. 

The society has grown. Humanity has entered into our melancholy. From the larval stage, our ideas and thoughts have undergone a metamorphosis. We wanted to fly. Without even knowing where we were taking off, we traversed almost an infinity. But did we ever stop to observe there was not one puddle to be seen on this journey? We have left the very human element of observation in our lives. When machine becomes a man and man becomes a machine, language slips into oblivion. When language becomes oblivious, feelings become obsolete. We have no time to lay hands on one another´s shoulders and leap together. Today, there are no puddles where words ooze eternally, words of warmth that existed among friends. 

If we combine several brief journeys it becomes one long journey. An odyssey. Every small trip is a turning. Every turning is a lesson in life.

Modern life has conspired to wipe us out physically, psychologically and politically. If we are not alert, we can disappear from the crowd, from the context or even from our very own self. That´s why when we see the burning lives of people, ever vanishing human element, when we see the resources for building this world draining out rapidly when we see human strife and tragedy the pressure on our heart mounts. Pen and paper become our companions to help us combat this pressure, to relieve us from its clutches. In times of crisis, of desperation and of lifelessness, poetry pats you on your back to bring you back to life.

Nowadays, people live for themselves. “Me and my family”. The society is a conglomeration of many such families. We know everything. We know how to maneuver on the thin line between good and bad. When I stumble on that line, the poet in me wakes up. It´s not to scribble something to change the society. I walk with many such “Me and Mine-s” in the society with shades of victory and with the shrieks of a wounded heart imprinted on the palm of my hand. That´s what is reflected in my poetry. You will see many such instances taking poetic form in my forthcoming collection too.

Initially, there used to be an enclosure around me. I saw people being apprehensive of touching my writings and thoughts. I was then a plant called ´Touch Her Not´. There were people who were skeptical about reading my words, my writings. My name reveals my identity. It reveals my community. Therefore, they were far from being receptive. It took a lot of time for a lot of people to accept me as a poet.

Although I started to write when I was in the Intermediate second year, I wasn´t really sure, whether it was poetry or not. With the restrictions of having been born in a Christian family and with no literary background, I had no idea what to read. Then, when I was in degree the second year –that was in 2002, I won a prize in an essay-writing contest organized by Vishalandhra Publications, a prestigious Telugu language publishing house. I was given books worth three thousand rupees. By then, Sri Sri, Dr.C.Narayana Reddy and Tilak were already part of my syllabus. I ordered their books and read them. A little later, Facebook became a platform for me. I opened my Facebook account in 2009. I began to post whatever I thought was good to post there. Surprisingly, I received a great deal of response there. I met several poets on Facebook. I sought their recommendations about books related to poetry and read. That urge to read poetry finally brought me here. Slowly, my poems have been translated into English, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, Odiya and Kannada languages and published. I have been accorded the opportunity of reading my poetry at various state, national and international poetry conclaves. I recited my poetry at Festival of Letters –New Harvest of Young Writers´ Meet organized by the Kendra Sahitya Academy. At the South India Writers´ Meet, I not only recited my poetry but presented a paper too. I started ´Poetry Hall´ on Facebook. I organize poetry workshops at Ravindra Bharathi in Hyderabad and train enthusiastic students in writing poetry. It has been one journey so far. A kind of transit. Now it´s time to discover new horizons. To begin a new journey.

This award is certainly a source of encouragement to continue my literary career. I hope this will turn out to be a Guru who will pat on my back and remind me constantly to write with responsibility.

My heartfelt gratitude to all of you.

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