Bangalore writer translates Subramania Bharati’s poems

The book “Selected Poems” – poems of Subramania Bharati translated from Tamil into English by Usha Rajagopalan was released in Bangalore on September 14th.

Usha Rajagopalan and Geetha Srikrishnan. Pic: Arathi Manay Yajaman

Usha’s relationship with writing began in her childhood. “I was always into reading and writing, and assumed that it was a part of every child’s life. My grandfather would insist I write a review on every book I read, and would later go through the reviews, marking out phrases or words that he thought were well used in the context, as well as those that could be improved upon or expressed differently.” Usha has written three books prior to this one – Get Published (a writer’s manual, OUP, 2001), Amrita (a novel, Rupa & Co., 2004), Corpse Kesavan & Other Stories (short stories, NHM, 2008).

Published by Hachette India, the book is bilingual with both the original Tamil and the translated English side by side. The selections give an insight into the versatility of Subramania Bharati (1882-1921) who is considered as the herald of the renaissance of Tamil literature. The short notes accompanying some of the poems give an idea of the different facets of Bharati’s personality. The book contains all the features of the UK Everyman Classics editions making it a useful study guide for translators and scholars, and an easy reader for those generally interested in poetry.

In the trilling and warbling of birds in the forest,
In the music of the wind as it rustles through the leaves,
In the laughter of the rippling river and cascading falls…
In the melody that is heard all day long,
In the teeming city and in the natural wild,
In all these notes I have lost myself.
– Subramania Bharati, “Kuyil Paattu”

Dr Valerie Henitiuk, Director and Ms Kate Griffin, International Programme Director from the British Centre for Literary Translation, University of East Anglia, UK were the chief guests at the function held at the British Library, Bangalore. Usha had spent some weeks with them in the UK as a Charles Wallace India Trust fellow during the time of translating Bharati’s poems. 

Usha dedicated the evening to the memory of Dr Verghese Kurien (of Amul fame) who was her boss and mentor and who she says shaped her personality and thinking in the five years that she worked as his Assistant Executive in Anand.

Geetha Srikrishnan presented excerpts from the book, singing in Tamil, while Usha rendered the English translation. One of the guests, Rekha, a Bharatanayam dancer who is doing her PhD in dance knew some Bharati songs and she very sportingly offered to dance to Geetha Krishnan’s singing.

Rekha dances. Pic: Arathi Manay Yajaman

It was a very personal and interactive Friday evening for the book lovers who made it to the event despite the Bangalore bus strike. And Usha hopes that most of them left with a deeper understanding of Subramania Bharati’s life, philosophy and poetry.  

“Selected Poems” of Subramania Bharati can be bought online here.

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About Arathi Manay Yajaman 38 Articles
Arathi is a market researcher who loves to run and write. She has been actively involved in issues that affect citizens, including apartment management, waste management and lakes. She used to live in Mumbai and is now based in Bengaluru, working as a Community Anchor with Citizen Matters.