Tamil, that ancient language, can give immense joy. Even if a bit is lost in translation.

On day one of The Hindu Lit for Life, Tamil readings in one of the morning sessions, dedicated to nature, came as a surprise to some. But the rich language that it is, Tamil can enrich any topic; the warm, hearty round of applause from the audience at the end of ‘A disappearing landscape etched in the written word’ seemed to be proof enough.

The translated portions were read by Anita Ratnam, who often left her seat and script to depict, with graceful movements, rivers, birds and insects; the measured tone of P.C. Ramakrishna and pithy voice of Sushila Ravindranath, as well as K.R. Arumugam, with a deep voice, and an ever-expressive R. Rohini gave life to the original text in Tamil.

The readings ranged from Sangam literature to a novel on shepherds based in the 21st century. ‘Sayavanam’ by Sa. Kandasamy was quite an experience as a simple narrative that captures the despairing mood of both nature and man as a forest is cleared for a sugarcane factory.

Set in the 1960s, perhaps, during the initial stages of industrialisation in the Tamil countryside, the readings captured, through an individual represented as a sample of the population, the destruction brought by human interference to plant and animal life.

A reading from ‘Silapathikaram’ revealed how rural life has been a constant for centuries.

And there was an account of a traveller who had criss-crossed hill country, coastal plains and a sea port and describes in detail to another minstrel to Kanchi the beauty of the landscape in poetry, dense in content and difficult on an audience predominantly composed of listeners and speakers of their native language.

Then, there was the description of shepherd life that narrates how children were forced to rear goats in a corner of a lake with dry grass and how they discover their innate happiness in that alluringly simple rural life, despite the loss of livelihood to development pressure.

MahakaviBharati’s verses, combining his reverence to goddess Parasakthi and a deep knowledge of the forces of nature, came as a fitting end to the session that came alive to the music of a young, traditional drummer.

Text and readings were designed by Prasanna Ramasamy and A.R. Venkatachalapathy was the resource person for text. Revathy Kumar and Ms. Ratnam had choreographed the simple, dance interludes.

“I never knew my writing could sound so beautiful when spoken,” Sa. Kandamy said, off-stage.

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