Last evening there was an event at the Prithvi theatre in Mumbai on Mahasweta Devi. They had invited Mahasweta Devi to have an interactive session with the audience which was preceded by an hour long documentary based on four interviews of the great authoress .
She is an 84 year old Gandhian who comes across as a very strong lady who is both individualistic as well as a humanist from the core of her heart. A prolific writer who has spent decades in writing and has received the best literary awards of the country.
I got introduced to her thoughts few years back, when i saw the movie 'Hazar Chaurasi ki Maa' which was based on the Naxalite movement that originated in Bengal. She wrote the book in 1975 after few young men came to her one day and complained that she always writes for rural Bengal but never for what those people are going through. She said that she never saw who those people were as they were standing on the road in a zone where the street light was not reaching and she could also not give any immediate answer to them.
Some of most fascinating aspects of her personality are her rootedness to the Indian ethos, her deep sensitivity towards social causes for which she has worked tirelessly to the extent of giving away her award monetary contribution, her very simple lifestyle which allows her to connect to lakhs of people who adore her work as well as her persona.
She recounted the greatness of Gandhi when she got a chance to meet him in 1946 when he came to Shantiniketan; this was the second time he came there after he had met Tagore some years back.
When the servants of the place came to greet him, he asked where was Gopi (one of the other servants who was present when he came their last) and how their sons and daughters were doing. The greatness of that individual can be gauged from this simple instance. This was the time when Gandhi had spent decades being at the helm of India's political affairs and still was 'human' enough to remember why a certain person was not around and the well being of their kins.
The fact that the authoress could remember it after 60 yrs of its incidence gives a clear idea of what actually makes an impact us. What defines greatness. She lamented the fact that there were almost no individuals like him these days not just in India but across the world.
One of the strongest messages that she gave was on believing in the "Right to Dream" as that is what defines the progress of individuals and society as a whole. She stated that those dreams that managed to escape the jail of one's society allowed her to become what she is right now. Her belief in equal treatment to all be it tribals, down trodden, rich etc was very strong.
As an answer to one of questions on whether she had ever written for dalits, she stated that she never writes keeping the identity of the individual in view. For her an oppressed person has no identity. Whether he is a tribal, a dalit, Hindu, Muslim, Christian etc really loses significance.
She is surely a Legend.