Delivered in the Delhi Sahitya Akademi in the festival of letters on the 21st of feb 07
My writing has a humble but mysterious, and also a seemingly silly, beginning, as I see it now. The title of my talk should really be Seven Decades of My Relationship with Literature for I am running seventy five now and I was famous for a simple sentence I spoke when I must have been hardly five years old. Did I really speak it? My mother must have repeated it many times in her fondness for me. (She died some three years ago, aged about 86 years). I was her eldest child and I had done well and my mother delighted in reminding me how simple I was and yet how I could say something clever and sweet to the ears.
The obviously silly sentence makes no sense unless it is contextualized. There was a woman called Abbakka–literally, sister Abba–who came to our tile-roofed large house in the midst of a jungle. Each large house like ours, a kilometer apart at least, had the name of a village and it had a few thatched huts in the vicinity where the peasants who worked for the land-owners lived. One of them was Abbakka and I remember she had twins whom she carried in both her arms tucked in her arm-pits. They clung to her neck. Abbakka had jasmine flowers in her oiled and tightly-plaited hair and a large kumkum on her forehead and turmeric powder on her cheeks. I think I remember her kind and mischievously smiling face and the fragrance of the jasmine flowers in her hair and the tobacco she shared secretly with my mother.