Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Classic Truths

Exams are over for the kid. Obvious that for the continuance of World peace it is imperative that I should attend to her vacation needs. The first 'vacation read' book purchased was Ramayana, in English, by C. Rajagoplachari. That stirred my childhood memories and I 'borrowed' it from her for a night.
She appeared to Hanuman at once adorable and pitiful, like the holy word torn from its context by infidels, like prosperity sunk in unmerited ruin,like shattered hope and faith betrayed, like frustrated fulfillment, like intellect muddied by insanity, like blameless purity besmirched by foul slander. 
The context (p. 323) should be clear to all of us reading it from the region called India, the land of Three Hundred Ramayanas [pdf].

Such creative and original similes to explain the plight of a woman abducted from her husband. One of the several reasons we must read our (Indian) classics in our lifetime, irrespective of what 'organized education' prescribes to us.

If one ventures into the corresponding original passages of Valmiki for comparison, one would appreciate the sincerity and command of language(s) of Rajaji. Take for instance, riDHim nipathithAmiva. The English equivalent goes "like  prosperity sunk in unmerited ruin". While 'riDHim pathithAmiva = prosperity sunk in ruin', we have 'riDHim nipathithAmiva = prosperity sunk in unmerited ruin'. Even the 'ni' of the original is embellished into its English equivalent.

The last simile (in the quote above) is unbeatable, both in the original (aBUthEna apavaTHEna kIrthim nipathithAmiva)  and the English equivalent of Rajaji. I for one could never think of a sentence like that in English, even after blessed with a lifetime of a sea-turtle. Overwhelming instances that justifiably advice me to quit writing -- barring the professional necessities -- altogether in English.


  1. gaddeswarup said...

    Rhis reminded me Desani's book which I have not read
    May be I will try at some stage.

  2. Arunn said...

    Swarup: Thanks for the link to what Amitav Ghosh wrote on Desani.

    "All about H. Hatterr" is in my to-be-read list; yet to buy it.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Sorry if this is not the right place for such a request. I am a "Dravidically challenged" native Hindi speaker who would like to read some South Indian classics. The problem is that the only ones I have heard of are those that were in my High school history text: Tolkappiyam, Sangam Literature, the works of Pampa, Ponna, Ranna. What would you recommend someone like me to start with, and which, if any, translations (into Hindi/English) do you think are the best?

  4. gaddeswarup said...

    I am keen to see your reaction to Sheila Dhar's English. I think that she adopted it well to some Indian contexts. It starts a bit slowly since her childhood was not happy; her father was not in love with his mother due to an earlier love affair. But once it starts going, it is hilarious in pieces like 'cent percent Gandhian. Parts of it are available at google books which I linked in
    It is a surprise to me that she is not better known for adoption English to Indian situations.

  5. madraskaari said...

    They say --
    If you have not read the classics, why bother to write; If you *have* read the the classics, why bother to write.

    No winning either way , for us non-classical writers.