The Canticle of Effort

Certain books call out to you. They have your destiny entwined in their pages. Back in 2017, when I read ‘Purappadinte Pustakam’, something in its sparkling originality touched my heart. I reached out to the author and offered to translate it to English. I felt that the world deserved to meet the wonderful characters; laugh and cry along with them. The author, V.J.James, always affable and humble, erudite and kind, responded encouragingly. The journey began there. As the famous quote from Dao De Jing goes, ‘ A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’

Today, we have translated six books together. Three novels : Anti-Clock, Nireeswaran and Dattapaharam have been released by Penguin Random House India. Next year, we hope to see ‘Purappadinte Pustakam’ or ‘ The Book of Exodus’ published. James had to struggle for more than a decade to see his debut novel in print. It evolved over the years, stained with sweat and tears.

Ironically, though it was the first book we completed together in the year 2018, the book took its own time to come to fruition. It has made me believe again in the subtle magic of words. We control nothing; only the effort is our portion. And when the results arrive, we have to humbly bow before the occurrence.

In an interview, long back, James was asked:

‘When do you think your books will get to a global audience?’

‘I believe in Akshara Shakti : the power of words.’

That makes me pause. And I reflect on the somber truth behind it all.

For words to grace us, we have to deserve their benedictions. To read and write more, to make the receiving vessel sparkle and shine, that choice alone is left to us. When and how the blessings pour, that is still under veils.

Every day gives us an opportunity to ready ourselves for the unseen grace. Though the mood is dark and apprehensive, or cheerful and sunny, or stoic and serene, we have to focus on the work at hand. The toil itself is the canticle. When raised to the heavens, by singing with a pure heart, the answer surely comes.

May the Lord guide us all into more and more fruitful endeavors; while staying detached and committed.

When Dreams Turn Real…

The gifted artist has again created a beautiful cover design. We are humbled and awestruck! What was once a dream, now stands fulfilled as a book. Truly, when we had started the journey, the challenge of the assignment, translating 320 pages of a gem which had been awarded multiple times, had seemed very formidable.

Shall we be able to walk the thousand miles? Should one dare to put that first step forward?

I usually start by taking a determined, deep breath and typing out the title of the book, the author’s name and confidently writing the (sacred) words …Translated from the Malayalam by Yours Truly. When I look at that, I see the glimmer of a prayer/dream turning into a reality, word by word.

Then I type the first chapter title and the first word. That calls for celebration! One pauses and congratulates oneself. Indeed, the translator transmutes into Frodo with his mysterious ring, unknowing of the dangers ahead in the magnificent quest; fraught with impending help and threats in multiple guises, and desperately hopes to reach the destination. Nay, one does not flip through the thick, 320 pages yet. It is one page, one paragraph, one sentence right now. Enough unto the day, the words thereof!

But when the dream stands transformed as a reality, one goes down on the knees and prays again to the divine source of all words. It is also the source of all love, kindness and beauty.

Thank you. Keep thou my feet. I do not ask to see the distant scene. One step enough for me….

As The Clock Ticks…

A dream turns into reality…how beautiful when all the hours of toil evolve into a gorgeous book. May the words continue to bless us all….Big thank you to team Penguin Random House, Kanishka Gupta and above all to the brilliant author (for trusting me with his book).

June, I am waiting for you!

Remembering a favourite poet and her words now…

The Gift

by Mary Oliver

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful. That the gift has been given.

Augury, Agony and the Shadows…


I am currently reading a collection of brilliant essays by many writers who underwent depression: ‘Unholy Ghost,’ edited by Nell Casey.

As I read the essay ‘ From darkness visible’, by William Styron, I was struck by the similarity in the nature of some ┬ácharacters in the book above, ( which I loved translating) and Styron’s analysis of his own heroines.

‘ Suicide has been a persistent theme in my books-three of my major characters killed themselves.In rereading, for the first time in years, sequence from my novels- passages where my heroines have lurched down pathways toward doom- I was stunned to perceive how accurately I had created the landscape of depression in the minds of these young women, describing with what could only be instinct, out of a subconscious already roiled by disturbances of mood,the psychic imbalances that led them to destruction.’

I also read ‘Noon time’: Lauren Slater’s ┬ástunning essay about being intensely depressed during her pregnancy…

‘ I will call her Clara, for clear, and Eve, which in Hebrew means life, and I will hope the gap between her name and her life is small. Clear Life. A life without depression. That is what she means, this little girl…’

( I remember with gratitude, the quote about serendipity…that it is a small miracle where God prefers to remain anonymous!)