R Madhavan Nair
KOZHIKODE: For Malayalis, Sanjayan’s writings are for all times.
For them, he is not only a great humourist but also a socio-political commentator who wrote with felicity on a wide range of subjects, that too in a language that sizzled with humour.
Though much of what he wrote was on issues that were being discussed by the people around him, all agree Sanjayan’s writings have a universality that transcends time and place.
Which is why Dr. Somarajan Padinjarittam, a practising physician and Sanjayan’s ardent fan, has translated some of his best known writings into English.
Sanjayan was M.R. Nair in real life. Born in Thalassery on June 13,1903, M.R. Nair became a journalist after a short stint in a government department as clerk and as tutor in a college. He wrote under the pseudonym Sanjayan. He died on September 13, 1943.
The author hopes to take Sanjayan’s works to a bigger audience crossing the language barrier by translating his articles into English.
The articles, compiled into a book form, are published by Tarjuma. Tarjuma, patronised by M.T. Vasudevan Nair, critic M.M. Basheer and author N. Gopalakrishnan, has already published English translations of some of the best books in Malayalam. Among these are O Chandu Menon’s Indulekha and Stories of Karoor Neelakanda Pillai.
The translator, a fan of Stephen Leacock, quotes him to explain why he likes Sanjayan’s writings so much: “Cardinal Newman merely prayed for light (Lead, kindly light) while (Charles) Dickens gave it (Pickwick Papers).”
Dr. Somarajan rates Sanjayan as a world class humorist comparable to celebrities like P.G. Wodehouse, Stephen Leacock, Thurber, and Mark Twain. Sanjayan’s articles published by Tarjuma in English prove his writings are relevant to all times. Here is a sample from “Hunting for fame” about the weird methods some people use to win fame.
“Recently I happened to see a report in the newspaper about a person circling the world in a single-bullock cart. I understand that the unusually hot weather this year has had this kind of effect on many people. The depth to which people are ready to stoop to get their names and photos in papers is amazing. Let me in all humility ask a question: if you circle the world in a single-bullock cart who should get the credit for it- you or the single bullock? Whose picture should be displayed prominently- yours or bullock’s? If it is the bullock, how can you appropriate for yourself the fame and prize for the adventure?.…”
“There are various types of fame hunters; the chap who swam under water for 10 minutes… the fellow who ran 40 miles… the person who remained silent for 40 days – fame-hunters like these are countless. Their photos are published in newspapers. The press is after them. Their foolish utterances are copied down and printed as if they were Gandhiji’s pieces.’
“There is danger in all these, sir. Imagine you are an ordinary man like PS (Sanjayan). Imagine also you are crazy after fame. What will you do? You might jump into one of the gutters of Calicut or you might try to let Malabar Express roll over your neck. If you happen to come out of it alive somehow, you will be very famous indeed. This is the danger lurking behind the press reports on the feats of fame hunters.”
The world has not changed much since Sanjayan’s days. Neither have journalists who always play up the utterances and antics of publicity-seekers as if these are words of wisdom and feats that only supermen can perform. The only difference in Sanjayan’s days was that only print journalists were at it. Now broadcast journalists are also doing it - perhaps with more devastating effect.