How many in the Tamil literary world know that a Tamil writer has won the National Human Rights Award in 2002 for her translation of Ku. Chinnappa Bharati's ‘Sangam' (‘Dalit Sangh') in Hindi, from the President of India? That this writer was honoured by the Gemini Academy, Panipat (Haryana) with the Life Time Achievement Award in 2004 for her contribution to literature at the birth centenary celebrations of poetess Subhadra Kumari Chowhan? That the writer has translated Rajam Krishnan's ‘Kurinji Thaen,' Su. Samudram's ‘Oru Kottukku Veliyae' and ‘Veril Pazhutha Palaa,' as well as a few novelettes of R. Chudamani and PVR? That many of her translations of a host of Tamil writers such as Akhilan, Na. Parthasarathy, Srivatsan, Bheeshman, S. Lakshmi Subramanian and Era. Murugan from Tamil to Hindi have won several awards?
Tucked away from the din and bustle of the city, Vijayalakshmi Sundararajan leads a quiet life with her husband, a retired audit officer of the Indian Railways, in one of the apartments of a retirement home in Sholinganallur.
For all her achievements and accolades, Vijayalakshmi is humble and says that being away from Tamil Nadu might be the reason for being unnoticed for her contribution to Tamil literature.
“Although hailing from a Tamil family, I was born at Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh and brought up in Maharashtra. I secured first rank in Hindi from Nagpur University. I got my Sahitya Ratna from Prayag University. I have also undergone training in teaching and have completed the certificate course in both Bengali and French and am quite comfortable in these languages, too!” says Vijayalakshmi.
It was her mother who insisted that Vijayalakshmi learn music and handicrafts, as well as her mother tongue – Tamil. “When I started reading the Tamil works of great authors, I was tempted to write my own short stories in Tamil in the 1990s and many have appeared in popular weeklies, winning prizes. However, what makes me proud is that I could serve as a bridge between two languages when I began translating the star writers of Tamil Nadu. I won the first prize from the Kerala Sahitya Parishad, Tiruvananthapuram, and Haryana Bhasha Vibhag, Haryana, and second prize from Raaga Bharati, Allahabad, and the Sahitya Sangam Rekha, Nagpur, for my translations. The other award I consider dear to me is the one given by the Central Hindi Directorate for outstanding contribution to Hindi (1994) for ‘Pratibimb,' my collection of short stories.”
Compliments from Sayani
Vijayalakshmi has served as faculty member and guest lecturer for State Bank of India for its correspondence course in Hindi journalism and translation projects. As one who served AIR as broadcaster, she has presented papers on Hindi literature and broadcasting. “The famous broadcaster Amin Sayani praised me for my voice and Hindi diction and I regard it as a great compliment!” says Vijayalakshmi. Her special study on ‘Ashtachaap Kavi and Vaishnava Sampradhaya' with specific reference to Tulsidas was noteworthy. In 1999, her musical feature on Andal was broadcast on National Hook-Up. Vijayalakshmi figures both in the Asia Pacific List of Who's Who, and Sahitya Academy's Who's Who.
A prolific short story writer in Hindi, her stories have been published by leading magazines including Dharmayug, Vama, Sarika, Navbharat Times and Gnanodaya (founders of Jnanpith.)
What was her most challenging work?
“Translating Ku. Chinnappa Bharati's ‘Pavalaayi' and ‘Sangam.' Bharati employs a peculiar style which is at once arresting and thought-provoking and bringing the same effect in another language posed a real challenge to me!”
An incident which she recalls with delight was when she was transferred to Chennai AIR and had to record a programme on wildlife. She was to get the assistance of Natarajan, a staff member. She did not know how efficient he was and insisted on taking Koothapiran of whom she had heard a lot, but not met. On the day of recording, Koothapiran came and sat in the vehicle and she said, “I thought Koothapiran would come with me, but I suppose, you are Mr. Natarajan. Can you handle the job?” Koothapiran laughed and said, “Madam, I am Koothapiran and my original name is Natarajan!”
While serving AIR, she wrote and produced several documentaries and musical features. She presented innovative features based on musical themes for children, too. When she was director of commercial services, she made her mark as a successful executive.
Having completed a voluminous three-generation novel, ‘Aalamaram,' Vijayalakshmi is involved in getting the same published after duly getting the script edited by an expert.