It was part of tradition at my house to season every food that a child eats with a spicy mix of Indian folk/mythological tale. These stories would vary each time they are told- yet the spice-mix; a secret combination of action, romance, magic and the traditional- “good triumphing over evil”- keeps the flavour of these tales intact- each time they are told!
As one grows older- they are either expected to read books on their own- or simply- the elders run out of stories. Hence- the insatiable appetite for stories, begin to get fulfilled by reading books. Yet- there seems to be something missing in them. The amazement and wonder, which one gets to experience through the little modulations in the voice of the story-teller-, can never be replicated in the books. One grows older and more mature, yes. Still- there is always a child deep within, that craves for the awe and wonder that can only be given by the traditional method of story-telling.
Tamil- was then an unfamiliar language to me- a language that I was not used to reading. All the while- it was my mother who kept telling me about the book “Ponniyin Selvan” by Kalki- about how they would wait for the Thursday issue of “Kalki” magazine and compete to read the episode of “Ponniyin Selvan” in it. It was during my college days- call it a stroke of “good-luck” (for this is usually the time for kids to go way-ward and ‘anti-parents’)- that I decided that I would find out what “Ponniyin Selvan” is all about. I owe it all to my mom- for she spent months- reading it aloud to me. This phase in my life- is what I call- “going back to my roots”!
I had read and revered Alexander Dumas! I had wondered about however could he even think of a character like “Milady de Winter” in “The Three Musketeers”! My first book was “The Count of Monte Christo”. There is something wonderfully fulfilling about reading “revenge stories”. They give the “ultimate satisfaction”. And this book had everything in it. That was when I fell in love with this writer. Be it “Manohara” or “Vanjokkottai Valiban”- I could find Dumas re-told in most tamil films of that age. Then I realised, when I was read “Ponniyin Selvan” that “Kalki” deserves the credit to bring Dumas alive in Tamil literary world. No- I am not accusing Kalki of copying Dumas. In fact- “Milady de Winter” only became better when she got transformed into “Nandini” (Ponniyin Slevan). d'Artagnan was more valiant and likable as “Vanthiyathevan”! What had caused this? Then it occurred to me- that- it was the language. The word “affinity”, when used appropriately- is a beautiful word. It was affinity to the language, which brought the characters alive!
“Kalki”- introduced me to the world of tamil language and literature. I was motivated to become better at it- so that I could read more books on my own. Still- doing something for the “first time”- leaves behind its magic- and it so happened that the three of the major works by Kalki- “Ponniyin Selvan”,” Sivagamiyin Sabatham” and “Parthiban Kanavu”- didn’t appeal to me, when I read it by myself. The words in them needed a voice. I began to wonder- then- about the traditional method of story-telling. It is time- to call it a “lost-art”.
Recently, I happened to read in the news paper about an “audio-book” launch function. The “audio-book” being “Ponniyin Selvan”. I attended the function with my dad- without any expectations. I was so amazed- that half way through the programme- when they announced a break- I bought the audio book! Need I say- that I totally got carried away- by the sheer effort they had put in- to make this book come alive- that recently- I purchased an audio book copy of “Sivagamiyin Sabatham” by “Kalki” at the Chennai Book Fair!
No. This is not about holding on to the past or carrying the past to the future. This is something else. This is about introducing a language and its literature to the future. Make the future more tolerable and appreciative of the past! This is about reviving a “lost-art”. The art- of effective story telling- and also- yes, why not, the “Pappu Mammu” too...
PS: "Pappu Mammu"- Dhal Rice:: Picture- Thanks, Google!
PS2: The Audio Book is compiled by a person named "Bombay Kannan"! Truly deserves appreciation for the effort put in behind creating the audio book!