Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On reading Malayalam short stories in Costa Rica

Quite a few years ago, I bought a collection of short stories by MT Vasudevan Nair while browsing the shelves at a bookstore in Chennai.  Translated into the English, of course.  But, not even once was I even tempted to read it.  Not even a page.  I suppose there is a time and a place for a book, as with most things in life.

This setting in Costa Rica could be somewhere in the Western Ghats, too, right?

A few days ago, in response to a post on Facebook, a friend commented about MT Vasudevan Nair.  That triggered me into making sure that I would pack with me the short story collection.

Why did I buy that collection in the first place?  Throughout my life I have read wonderful novels and short stories.  In Tamil and in English.  Original works in these languages, and others translated  from the Russian and Malayalam and whatever else.

From the Malayalam, it was Thakazhi's writings that drew me with the narratives about the regular folks in settings that I could easily identify with, thanks to the visits to Kerala during my childhood years.  MT Vasudevan Nair was a familiar name thanks to my peeping into the arty world and, thus, when I saw that collection, I bought it.  Further, I have always had a soft spot for short stories over the full-length novels anyway.

Mountains, lush green, bananas ... Costa Rica is also God's own country!

I didn't read anything during the flight, however.  It never feels right to me to read when traveling. Too much distraction and discomfort that does not allow me to fully engage with the story and the characters.  I need to be to mentally transported into the world that the author had created.

I didn't start reading after reaching the lodge at Orosi either.  The time hadn't come.

It did come with dark clouds, thunder, and lightning.

I brewed myself a cup of coffee and had that with the pastry that I had picked up before the clouds were beginning to gather.

I was sitting outside on the balcony, on the wood furniture, with my legs on the wood floor, looking at the coconut tree, watching the rains fall on the red roofs and the gorgeous lush green surrounding when it felt like I was in Kerala during the monsoon season.

I went inside, picked up the short story collection, and returned to my place on the balcony.

the short story collection on "my bench" on the balcony

Ah, the comforting smell of papers of an old publication.

True to my habit, I didn't start with the first story, but jumped into a story with a title that attracted me--Red Earth.

With the ambiance, I needed no effort to be mentally transported to the setting that Nair was describing.  I could see the waters. The sands. The temple. The guide. The husband. The drunk.

I wish you were there.

2 comments:

Ramesh said...

Lovely. It almost feels like I was there. for words have that power to stimulate the imagination, especially in the hands of such a skilled blogger.

I dare say Costa Rica is prettier than Kerala. Some parts of Kerala are very pretty, but to call it Gods own country is a slight exaggeration :)

The short story you describe in a sentence could very well be RK Narayan's immortal - The Guide.Exactly the same characters . Haven't read Vasudevan Nair before. Maybe I should buy the collectiob and wait till I land up in Costa Rica one day to read it !!

Sriram Khé said...

Am glad you liked it ...

Yes, indeed, Costa Rica is immensely prettier than is Kerala ... it is one heck of a paradise.

Yes, buy the book and head on to Costa Rica--you might never return to India though ;)

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