TSC interviews | Mercy Margaret | C. Satyanathan

Mercy Margaret

Chandramohan S.:  Congratulations on winning the Young Writer award. You  write  poetry in Telugu but you converse with your colleagues mostly in English? What does your language mean to you?

Mercy: Thank you so much for your greetings. Yes, I write poems in Telugu. Telugu is my mother tongue. I feel human sentiments are often best expressed in the mother tongue. English is a link language to connect with people from different parts of the country and world.  For me, language is not at all a tool of communication; it is more than that.In one of my poems, I have written that  language to me is a medicine which heals people.  Language is a thread which brings humans together. And I love my mother tongue. As in, these days everyone is running after English. Yes, of course it is good to know English and communicate in it so that we can exchange our grief, ideas and cultural heritage. But we should never forget our mother tongue too. Because those who are good at their mother tongue can learn  other languages  better.

Chandramohan S.: You speak about using social media effectively. Could you elaborate? Why do you think social media has been so pivotal in Dalit Bahujan activism?

Mercy : Yes. I am very active on Social Media. Facebook has become a medium for me to express my views in the form of poetry and stories. This is the generation of Information Technology.  In a click,  everybody is connecting to each other.  Social media has become a very powerful tool to express every body’s feelings.

I started writing in Facebook.  My poems got shared and I started receiving Likes. I connected with many poets in Facebook and learned from them, asked them which book should I read and which books I have to refer.

I Am a Christian. A Dalit Christian. I was brought up in an orthodox way.  I do not hail from a literary family and my parents know nothing about literature. Being religious, I thought I should not write poetry since by doing that I may rob the glory of God; I thought I should use all my talents only for God. Many misconceptions were around at that time in my mind. But social media helped me to see the world in different way. It has become a platform for my thoughts . There were people in the initial stage who didn't accept me as  my name reveals my identity and community. Slowly,  they started accepting me by reading my poems.

When it comes to Dalit Bahujan activism, social media is playing a vital role. Many mainstream papers have no space for Dalit Bahujan issues. They will not provide a place to express our views. But through Facebook, blogs  etc.  our literature is reaching many.

Chandramohan S. : Could you briefly present a snapshot of your literary evolution? You have overcome twin disadvantages of being a woman and a Dalit. Do you wish to place yourself in the tradition of Swaroopa Rani or Gogu Shyamala?

Mercy: As I earlier stated, I am from a Dalit Christian community. I should confess here that the Dalits discriminate against those who have converted to Christianity. We are not treated equally.

In the initial days, I wrote poetry  of a romantic nature. But slowly, I started to study the society.  Many of my personal experiences have taught me about Dalit issues and Dalit activism. Being born and brought up in a city like Hyderabad and educated in a Christian school, I never faced any kind of discrimination and I never knew about Dalit activism. But many incidents helped me to understand the situation.

I can't say that I will be continuing  the tradition of Swaroopa Rani or Gogu Shyamala. I write poetry when ever I feel my voice is required to help the suppressed whoever it is. And I write poetry to vent about the  pressure of  my surroundings, society, inequalities etc.

Chandramohan S.: Do you consider yourself a Dalit writer? What are the specifics of the subjectivity of  a "Dalit Writer" in your perspective?  In addition to your Christian background?

Mercy: I am not a Dalit Writer. I am a writer who is Dalit. ( This thought or stand may change according to time or may not, it all depends on time and situations )  I speak where ever my voice is required to address issues where justice has failed. I do not want to limit myself by saying this. I am not under-valuing the issue of Dalits. I belong to Dalit community and I will be the voice of my community in the crucial times.

In my view, those who are called "Dalit writers" are sacrificing a lot.They are sacrificing  their pleasures and due praises for the community’s sake. Yes, it is true if they remove that tag of Dalit writers they would  also become great laureates. As everyone  knows, their voices were suppressed due to literary politics.

It’s true that Dalit Christians are treated with less priority compared to the normal Dalits. They are not given  equal rights as Dalits get. Many Dalit Christians are undergoing persecution. But these deaths and harassment are not getting recorded. I found there is very little literature  produced on us. Our lives should get recorded. Alone, I  can’t do this. Many more should come forward.

Chandramohan S: You are the second "Yuva Puraskar " winner I am interviewing in the last two years who hails from a Dalit background. Does this reflect a larger shift in mainstreaming the voices of the margin in Telugu literature?

Mercy: Yes, of course. I feel  this Award has given strength to our voice; people who didn't listen to us will try to listen now. Many young Dalits are getting inspired.

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