Sixteen-year-old Nirupama Raghavam’s tryst with Kalki Krishnamurthy’s Parthiban Kanavu goes back to the time, three years ago, when her grandmother gifted her a few Tamil books hoping to get her to learn the language.
“Most of the books my grandmother gave me were non-fiction. But Parthiban Kanavu stood out because, quite literally, the book had an interesting cover and was also one of the few Tamil fiction titles among the lot,” says Nirupama of the book that proved a turning point for more than just her reading habit.
Last year, Nirupama completed her translation of Parthiban Kanavu from its Tamil original to English. Her recently relased book, published by Tulika Books in association with the MR AR Educational Society is called Parthiban’s Dream. And to think this dream grew out of Nirupama’s need to express the story to someone who didn’t read Tamil.
“One of the students in the non-profit school that my mother runs, didn’t read Tamil but wanted to know what the book was like. I narrated the story with such detail that my mother insisted I should write it down as a translation. And look how far that has come!” she says, visibly excited to see her work in print.
“I spent ten months translating the book, although I was reluctant at first. After getting help for the first seven chapters, I started translating it on my own. In retrospect, it has been a great experience, as my interest didn’t slacken and boredom didn’t creep in. It probably has to do with the fact that the original book itself is so exciting,” she exults.
“I fell in love with the characters in Parthiban Kanavu – Chakravarthi, the emperor, so majestic, yet so free of ego. Imagine a ruler wielding so much power, yet not letting it affect him! And of course – Valli, an extremely smart woman. Although women in that era have been portrayed as powerless, here’s one who is represented as extremely intelligent. Also, the original was written so well, that it has inspired me to learn more about South Indian History.”
Nirupama lives in Arasavanankadu, a village near Tiruvarur where her mother runs a non-profit school.A n interesting factor in Nirupama’s upbringing is that she has been completely home-schooled.
Doesn’t she miss attending a regular school? “ I don’t miss company as we have the school my mother runs. And add to that the fact that I am taught for about two hours every day leaving me free to learn anything I want the rest of the day! Besides, I also get to teach Maths, Geography, chanting and a little music part-time at the school.”
Moreover, books form an integral part of Nirupama’s life. Isaac Asimov, Terry Goodkind, Ayn Rand and Richard Bach are among her favourite authors. K.M. Munshi’s Krishnavatara and Rajaji’s Mahabharata have also played a part in developing her taste in books.
So, where to from here, young Nirupama? “I currently write for myself and am in the process of writing something original which should be completed by December this year. As for the future, I am yet to decide what I want to do. It’s still “Work in Progress/Under Construction.”
Nirupama Raghavan’s book, Parthiban’s Dream is available in bookstores in the city.
(edited version published on November 18, 2004 in Madras Plus, the city features supplement of The Economic Times, Chennai. Pic as published in Madras Plus)