Eklavya will not dishonour the Guru’s command but he will not give away his right hand thumb but give a replica made of dust and spittle as he cries out, ‘Jaisa Guru vaisi diksha’ (As the teacher, thus the reward).
Well-known playwright and fiction writer from Mumbai, Kiran Nagarkar, who is known to create cotemporary fables from myth, cited this episode from his play ‘Bedtime Story’ which opposed the emergency imposed in India in 1975.
The play was banned when first staged and it took many years to be revived.
Stressing the need to protest against injustice, he spoke about the characters of Gandhari and Draupadi who also feature with Eklavya in his play and are re-interpreted as rebels and not victims. Nagarkar set the tenor of dissent and debate on Wednesday for the fourth edition of the Chandigarh Literature Festival (CLF) opening at the Chandigarh Club on Thursday as he announced the first Lifetime Achievement Award of the Adab Foundation to veteran writer Nayantara Sahgal.
Describing her as a writer who belonged to a rare breed, Nagarkar said, “Her moral compass has held steady from 1975, when she was one of the most outspoken critics to the current times when dissent has become a dirty word.” Nayantara has been at the centre of the writer’s protest when she became the second and most influential writer to return the Sahitya Akademi Award (1986) for her novel ‘Rich Like Us’, which dealt with the emergency, in protest against the ‘growing intolerance’ in the country.
To give or not to give
When asked why he had not returned the Sahitya Akademi award he had received for his novel ‘Cuckold’ in 2001, Nagarkar replied: “My return letter was ready but when the Akademi strongly condemned the murder of Kannada writer MM Kalburgi he held it back.” However, he added that if need be he would return the trophy to the Akademi but not the cash award which he said would go into education of children of sex workers.