Missing out on the Classic Works in Tamil? Not Any More…
Posted by Katie Nathan
If you are not familiar with Tamil language but interested in reading the Tamil vernacular works of award winning authors in Tamil, it is time to rejoice. Translation of Tamil works into English is gaining popularity. Read on …
Hearts go ‘padak padak’ while the trusted chariot goes ‘kadakada, sadasada’ as it speeds across moats and bridges. As Pavithra Srinivasan sets the scene for her translation of the Tamil historical ‘Sivagamiyin Sapatham’, she retains some of the sights and sounds weaved into the narrative by the author, late Kalki Krishnamurthy.
“There are other translations but I thought I will try to capture some of his charming ways with words,” says Srinivisan, whose work is slated to hit the stands this year. As Indian authors continue to dip into the rich pool of bhasha or regional literature, publishers are finding the going commercially viable.
Recently, Bangalore-based publishing house Rasala brought out their first book, a 15th century love poem. ‘The Message of The Koel: Uddanda Sastri’s Kokila Sandesa’ is a tour of medieval south India as a lovesick husband stranded in Kancheepuram uses a koel to pass on a message to his wife in Kerala. “We translated the Sanskrit work as there is a section of readers who are interested in India’s literary heritage,” says publisher and translator Venetia Kotamraju.
Many people, including techies who return from abroad, are interested in the past. “Some learn Sanskrit, which has fallen by the wayside,” she says. The poetry book is primarily for those who enjoy beautiful poetry.
According to Singapore-based author S Vijay Kumar, there is interest in epics, mythology and regional literature. “A few years ago, Rajaji’s edition was the only English translation of Mahabharata. Now readers want new versions that will appeal to them,” says Kumar, who is penning two historicals. “The tech generation , mostly under 35 years of age, who commute long distances, have taken to such works,” he says.
US-based entrepreneur Ravi Venugopal started writing his versions of the Ramayana to answer his daughter’s questions. “When I asked for logical explanations as a child, I was told not to question. I can’t tell that to my daughter, so I tried to approach the stories from the cause and consequence angle,” he says.
The rise in translations and historical fiction coincide with the wider interest in nativism. “Why would you preserve family photographs or buildings and monuments? Not all of them are great but are they not significant?” asks Mini Krishnan, editor-translations of Oxford University Press-India . She has edited 73 translations because retrieving them is vital to reclaiming our identity. Indian publishers who had earlier ignored translations and regional language writers are waking up to their aesthetic and commercial potential, she says.
But often the choice of subject matter and scope of retelling remain limited. “There is not much awareness about Buddhist and Jain subjects,” says Kumar. The deep, tragic veins of the original myths are also disappearing in the glamourised retellings, says Krishnan. According to her, there are more stories to be told. “The most interesting experiments must still be underway in the minds of writers who are researching tribal and dalit culture,” she says.