TRANSLATOR Language is no more a barrier to enjoy Poonthanam’s Malayalam verses. CHARUKESI
It was perhaps M.S. Subbulakshmi who introduced Poonthanam’s ‘Krishna Krishna Mukunda Janardhana’ and ‘Kandu Kandangirikkum Janangale’ to Carnatic music rasikas. While the former is from the poet’s Krishna Karnamritam, the latter is from Gnanappana. “I was fortunate enough to render their meaning in Tamil, for the benefit of the Tamil-knowing public!” says Geetha Kalyan.
Born in Kerala, Geetha Kalyan migrated to Chennai after marriage. Her husband presented her a volume of Paramacharya’s Arulvaakku. “I could speak Tamil but not read or write. I made an effort to learn the language so that I could read the book. Slowly I gained proficiency,” says Geetha in her foreword to her book, a translation of Sri Krishna Karnamritam and Gnanappana.
“As an official in the UNHCR for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Chennai, I could easily translate their statements from Tamil to English. They spoke the pure dialect avoiding English words in their conversation. In fact, they asked, ‘Why do you Tamils in Tamil Nadu mutilate the language (sidhaikkireergal) ?’ It was, therefore, another opportunity for me to improve my Tamil!” smiles Geetha Kalyan.
On the job
A devotee of Kanchi Mahaswami and a regular visitor to the Kanchi Mutt, Geetha was asked to translate the Tamil book ‘Kancheepurathin Kavinmigu Koilgal’ by T.V.R. Chariar into Malayalam. Geetha has completed this book. “Now that you have done the first book, you can translate all the slokas of Adi Sankara, except Viveka Chudamani, into Malayalam!” suggested Sri Vijayendra Saraswati. Geetha is on the job and the 1,000 page volume will go to print soon.
“I happened to read all the seven volumes of ‘Maha Periyavalin Darsana Anubhavangal’ by several hundreds of devotees, which was introduced to me by Sri Ganesa Sarma. The entire collection is fascinating. These are not available in Malayalam. I have already translated two volumes and the third is in progress!” says Geetha.
“I have all the volumes of ‘Deivathin Kural’ and you know what I do first thing on my wedding day? I open the book and read one full chapter first and only then I attend to my domestic chores!” she adds.
How did Geetha Kalyan take up the translation of Poonthanam’s poems?
“My Narayaneeyam Guru Janaki Vaidyanathan called me one day and asked me whether I could get the Tamil version of Krishna Karnamritam and Gnanappana for a discourse by Damal Ramakrishnan. I hesitated but went ahead. I provided word-by-word meaning for each stanza followed by complete meaning in a short paragraph. I saw to it that the pronunciation in Tamil script matched the Malayalam pronunciation and I am glad they have been rendered correctly.
“The well-known Upanyasaka was much impressed after he went through the translation. He felt that both Krishna Karnamirtam and Gnanappana. should not be confined to the Malayalam-knowing public. Tamils also should enjoy the beauty of the lyrics and so the idea of bringing it out in a book form took shape. “I sought the help of my friend Su.Ra. (Sundararajan), Tamil writer to oversee the script and he went through the translation and guided me.”
Gnanappana is nothing but the essence of the Vedas, Srimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita, Bhajagovindam, Viveka Chudamani and Narayaneeyam.