Kamban brought alive!
‘Translation’, a word from its Lain root ‘indicates taking one to the other side to help watch the beautiful sights there from the vantage side of one’s own dwelling’. It is a challenging task. That is what great translators have done the world over.
If the matrix and target languages belong to the same cultural group, like the translations among the Indian languages, it may not be all that difficult as translating from an Indian language to English, that has a totally different cultural background. And much more so, if the work to be translated belonged to a distant era in the past.
But that is what has Dr.H.V.Hande precisely done by rendering Kamba Ramayanam (10th century CE) one of the crowning glories of classical Tamil literature into elegant modern English prose. He has achieved the impossible and hats off to him for this great endeavour.
There were many great men like V.V.S.Iyer, Rajaji, P.M.Sundaram and others, who have translated in prose or verse form (Rajaji and Sundaram tried the verse form) but to me it appears that Hande’s work is the most satisfying in the sense that he attempted translating in simple, fluent prose. Kamban said that his tran-screation was provoked by ‘love’ and it is obvious, Hande’s translation is also an intense labour of ‘love’, love for the Tamil masterpiece.
I gave the book one continuous reading as a book written in English trying hard not to remember Kamba Ramayana by way of comparison. I felt the book read like one what it should be in flowing style, the highest tribute to Kamban, in my reckoning. I recollected what Keats wrote on reading George Chapman’s translation of Homer’s I ‘Iliad’.
‘Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold’
A full-fledged thorough reading of Hande’s book brought, thereafter, Kamban’s inimitable poetic lines before my mind’s eye. This is what a good translation should do and for those, who have not read the original bring forth the substance of the original. As all those brilliant aspects of Kamban’s poetry and his sparkling genius have been faithfully conveyed by this translation.
I am not sure and I may be wrong in assuming that this book has not much been talked about as much as it deserves in the literary and academic corridors. I have not done a review of this book but just a tributary salutation to the multi-faceted Hande for his masterly literary contribution.