Rajam Krishnan’s Verukku Neer is a Sahitya Akademi award-winning Tamil novel that has been rendered into English under the title Water For The Roots by Pattu M. Bhoopathi.
It is an undeniable fact that something is always lost in translation. No translator has ever succeeded in capturing the flavours of the original text. There are ways translators can wittingly or unwittingly do injustice. One way is trying to improve the original; another way is being too faithful to it. So if it be granted that all translators err, what has Bhoopathi done? Does his translation fall short of or exceed the quality of the original?
This reviewer, though he has read four of Rajam Krishnan’s novels and has appreciated her style and thoughts, would like to confess that he hasn’t read Verukku Neer. And though he has read Bhoopathi’s English version twice, his remark on the quality of the translation would obviously lack authenticity.
This translation – excuse my saying again that I have read it twice – has sowed in me a desire to read Verukku Neer. And I will do so at the first opportunity.
The protagonist Yamuna, soaked in Gandhian idealism, seems to succeed where Gandhi himself, as critics say, has failed – on the domestic front. Her uncle Joseph had told her, even if one is the wife of a ruffian, to ‘try to live up to the grand ideal of truth and ahimsa and find your fulfillment in such a life’.
Yamuna loved Sudhir. But he was against Gandhi. He tells her: “Non-violence is sheer hypocrisy and love is mere duplicity.” Though Yamuna doesn’t agree with him, she realizes that Sudhir is not a hypocrite.
Yamuna liked Indunath. He is a Youth Congress leader. But it doesn’t take long for Yamuna to find out that he is a sheer hypocrite and an opportunist who pays only lip service to Gandhian principles.
Yamuna married Durai. He belonged to a lower caste and was brought up in an ashram supported by her parents. By his own confession: “I am a very ordinary man. I have all the likes and preferences of an average individual.” Has she made the wrong choice?
Yamuna’s married life is full of compromises. She submits to the will of her husband and wears a non-khadi saree to a party and even removes a portrait of Gandhi from the wall. But she continues to hold on to Gandhi in her heart. And the result: Sudhir tells Yamuna that the biggest mistake of his life was marrying her.
The novel with its interplay of ideologies, however, ends on a hopeful note. The Sahitya Akademi published the translation in 2010 and the book is priced Rs. 100.
Bhoopathi, it may be noted, won the Nalli-Thisai Ettum Literary Award for 2009 for his English translation of the Tamil classic Muttollayiram under the title Pearls Of Passion And Fury. He may be reached by email: email@example.com