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Epic endeavour Rajendra Tandon
Epic endeavour Rajendra Tandon

Rajendra Tandon brings Kalidasa to modern readers

A beautiful damsel pursues a handsome, talented, powerful, tantalisingly eligible widower. He ignores her. Humiliated, the heroine retreats. But the charms of one whose love for his wife is undying are all the more irresistible. She can only fall deeper in love! And so on, till the happy ending. This is neither a Hindi movie nor a paperback romance. It is the skeleton plot of Kalidasa’s epic poem “Kumarasambhavam”.

Contemporary feel

We might find his writings have a racy, contemporary feel, but for many English medium educated Indians, Kalidasa and other Sanskrit writers remain elusive, partly because Sanskrit is unpopular among students. However, translators have done their bit to reverse the impression.

One of these is Rajendra Tandon, who, in partnership with Rupa publishers, is bringing out English translations of Kalidasa’s works. If “Ritusamharam” came out this month, “Kumarasambhavam” hit the stands three months ago.

“Raghuvamsham” is expected by April-end, and Tandon hopes 2008 will see him complete his translations of the entire works of Kalidasa.

This is apart from his translations of Bhartrihari’s “Niti Shatakam”, “Shringar Shatakam” and “Vairagya Shatakam” which are older projects. Quite a schedule for a government servant retired from the Income Tax Department. “Well, I’m a very hardworking person,” he laughs.

“These books don’t sell like novels, but they do have a market even abroad,” he says, praising his publishers’ efforts. Mentioning the cover of “Kumarasambhavam” that features the legs of a dancing couple, he remarks that this time the designers have gone a step ahead in packaging.

For his part, he says he tries to provide a flowing translation where the English verses have a beauty of their own while offering a glimpse of the music of Kalidasa.

Apart from translating Sanskrit works, Tandon is interested in gardening, music and miniature painting.

ANJANA RAJAN

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