After Kalakshetra’s refusal to allow its venue for the book launch, Carnatic musician TM Krishna's book 'Sebastian & Sons', which outlines a brief history of Mridangam makers, was launched by Thol Thirumavalavan in a function held at Asian College of Journalism in Chennai.
The book launch became a controversy after Kalakshetra Foundation, a Chennai-based arts and culture academy, withdrew permission for the event at its premises, citing fears of ‘political, cultural and social disharmony.’ The decision followed the publication of an excerpt of the book titled ‘Keeping the cow and brahmin apart’ in The Hindu on Tuesday. The chapter touched upon how the world of Carnatic music is dominated by Brahmins but mridangam makers are primarily from Dalit communities. It addresses a dichotomy in the Brahmin culture where the community insists on cow worship and restrict consumption of the animal's meat but still uses the mridangam made of cow skin. Specifically, it refers to the reluctance of celebrated Brahmin artistes in acknowledging that the mridangam meant needing the skin of the cow.
50 mridangam creators (who were featured in the book) were also present in the venue. Two chief guests of the function, VCK founder Thol Thirumavalavan and writer Rajmohan Gandhi, reiterated that Kalakshetra's refusal proved how deep rooted the caste system is in the state.
“This entire controversy shows that Manu dharma still exists in our society," said Thol Thirumalavan. "As soon as I heard the event is cancelled, my first thought was that, it was because I was called. They probably also thought why should 'he' come for this event (Thirumavalavan is a Dalit leader). But I think the cancellation just gave the event more publicity and made it more successful," he added.
In a panel discussion that followed however, TM Krishna himself admitted that he was unsure about how this book would change the lives of the mridangam makers.