Enemies of the state

July 20, 2010

The head-on collision of trains in West Bengal, again, proves that the Government is barking up the wrong trees, in treating Maoists and terrorists as the biggest enemies of the state. It should stop pooling all its resources and non-existent intelligence in fighting only these enemies, however real they are.

Can we wake up and launch a war on inefficiency, callousness and corruption?

Thirukkural meets Twitter

July 16, 2010

I have started translating Thirukkural on Twitter. I have always drawn a lot from Thirukkural – now, it is time give something back to Valluvar, in whatever limited way that I can.

Twitter seems to be tailor-made to enable crisp translations of Thirukkural – the way it was originally meant to be. Here is a 140 character medium of the modern era, waiting to host the 2000-year-old 7-word kurals, which packed wholesome wisdom in 2 lines.

There are already numerous translations available in English. But I hate literal translations, which lose their charm in an alien language.  So I will attempt to do my own interpretations of Thirukkural in a contemporary twitter-friendly, and yet, proper English.

I realize that some kurals, shorn of the poetic grace of ancient Tamil, will look banal in their naked forms. But that is the risk with any translation, particularly, of verses. However, there is enough depth in most kurals to shine bright, despite the services of an amateur translator. I will, as suits my style, not follow any particular order in choosing the kurals. I will start with what I know well and like; move on to what I know, exists, and I will like. I may stop here and not translate all 1330 kurals.

This is neither an academic exercise nor a commercial endeavour (not yet, as I see it). I am writing for the pleasure of writing, that too on phone, snatching every possible opportunity to think and tweet. More accurately, I am writing for the pleasure of reading Thirukkural, in greater depths than I have ever done before, and for, potentially, introducing Thirukkural to a new set of readers through a medium that they love.

Update: I am now posting the kurals on Facebook too – this is a public page that anyone can subscribe to: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Thirukkural-in-English/121572627898093

Thirukkural Isaithamizh – music to the mind

July 16, 2010

‘Thirukkural Isaithamizh’ is a wonderful attempt to bring Thirukkural to life in musical form. Tamil Maiyyam, after producing Illayaraja’s masterpiece, Thiruvasagam, has embarked on its next musical journey into ancient Tamil literature.

The tunes are contemporary but mostly unoriginal. The excellent kural-selection, symphonic orchestration (Nellai Jeyaraj) , some soulful singing, a variety  of musical genres and quality of recording make up for the familiarity of the tunes – these folks have definitely made use of their learning from the making of Thiruvasagam. Overall, a compelling presentation in 6 CDs with many songs  still ringing in my ears.

In any case, setting aside all positive and negative criticism, this is not just about music, is it? It is a great way to introduce Thirukkural to the uninitiated and, more importantly, to kids. Aruna Sairam, singing ‘Yaathanin yaathanin’ mesmerisingly, is the standout singer and is already my 19-month old daughter’s favourite.

I liked the kural-selection as well. It had a good mix of the familiar chapters from the text books and some hidden gems on love from Kaamathupaal (Book of Love). For those, who have never read Kaamathupaal, these songs introduce a completely different facet of Kural: Thirukkural is not just a discourse on morals but a comprehensive commentary on Tamil culture 20 centuries ago.

I will now look forward to more from Fr. Jegath Gasper Raj. Hopefully, he will continue to focus on Tamil literature and not religion.

Taking 2 days off to visit Tamil conference at Coimbatore was made completely worthwhile, since, more than anything, it helped us discover this unusual combination of music and literature, soaked in catchy modernity.


5 months after this post, the 2G spectrum scam casts a shadow of suspicion over Tamil Maiyyam and Jagath Gasper.  They seem to be guilty, and I will be sad, if they are. Two of my all-time favorite albums (Thirukkural and Thiruvasagam) are produced by them. I liked them and I enjoyed them – whatever happens now cannot change the past joy. Hope this nagging doubt and persistent anger, doesn’t take away anything from my listening experience in future.