"Writing has been easy in a way. If I read a story I really like, it chases me till I translate it"
Gowri Kirubanandan has translated 38 Telugu novels into Tamil, besides several short stories. She tells J. Malarvizhi that growing up in Andhra Pradesh in a Tamil-speaking family has helped her understand the two cultures and represent one to the other better.
Her journeys between languages and places have given her new perspectives and helped her delve into a world of her own.
"A career that began after 40 has given me a new identity," says Ms. Kirubanandan.
Her novelists of choice remain Endamoori Virenderanath, Sulochana Rani and Kameshwari. Besides them, she translates short stories that move her deeply.
She spent the first 20 years of her life in Andhra Pradesh, and moved to Tamil Nadu after her wedding in 1976.
When her husband was posted to Melattur, a village near Thanjavur, she began to read whatever she could lay her hands on in the district library. She began with well-known names such as Jayakanthan, Sujatha and Janakiraman.
Later, when she read a work translated from Telugu to Tamil and compared it with the original, she was shocked by the quality of the translation. She shot off an accusatory letter to the translator and received a challenge in reply, "Why don't you try writing?"
Though she could read and speak Tamil, she had never learnt to write the language. She taught herself the strokes of the alphabet and translated her first short story in 1996.
She stumbled occasionally over some words and would call her father for the Tamil equivalent. Her husband, meanwhile, was not very impressed. "He reads only serious literature and said that he would acknowledge my literary skills when one of my stories appear in the Tamil literary magazine Kanaiaazhi," she recalls. "That did happen finally. He shook hands with me and congratulated me."
Other memorable moments include the call from the editor of Mangaiyar Malar, a Tamil magazine for women.
"There was a story titled `Thandanai' (Punishment) that brought tears to my eyes each time I read it and when I translated it I sent it to Mangaiyar Malar. The editor called me to say that the story was very nice and used it in the very next issue."
She has also contributed to Kunguma Chimizh and web magazines such as Ambalam, Thamizh Oviyam and Thinnai.com.
"Writing has been easy in a way. If I read a story I really like, it chases me till I translate it," she says.
The works of Vaasanthi, Jayakanthan, Sujatha, Sivashankari and Anuradha Ramanan have already been or will be shortly introduced to Telugu readers through her. "My dream project was recently completed. `Meena', the best-selling novel by Sulochana Rani, my favourite writer, is `Mul Pathai' (Path of Thorns) in Tamil," she says, "I want to continue translating good books. That quest remains alive within me."