Ready for launch: two important translations

K Nallathambi is equally fluent in Tamil and Kannada.

The easiest way to stir up a heated debate around here is to simply bring up the topic of whether Kannada or Tamil is superior. “Does it matter? I love both these beautiful languages,” says 64-year-old K. Nallathambi, who has translated seven books across the two classical tongues.

Both Kannada and Tamil have a history of over 2,500 years and are rich in literature. The retired marketing manager has taken up the mission of bridging the communities with his translations. The idea, he says, is for people to appreciate and mutually respect the languages.

Born and brought up in a Tamil-speaking community in Mysore, he grew up admiring the culture of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. “Kannada was our medium of instruction in school. And the elders in my community, fearing that we children would forget our mother tongue, brought in a professor from Kumbakonam, who taught us to write Tamil.”

Four years ago, he started posting four-line poems on Facebook, picking them from 400 poems he has translated between the two languages, and they were well received. “I have always been a lover of words. After retirement, I wanted to do something that matters,” he says.

His first work, a translation of P Lakesh’s Neelu Kavya, came out as to Mottuviriyum Saththam in Tamil. His next translation from Kannada, something he holds very dear, was Sasuve Thandavalu by B V Bharathi, a cancer survivor. “Many cancer patients from Tamil Nadu called me up after reading the Tamil version, Kadugu Vangivanthal, to tell me that it had given them hope,” he says.

His translations from Tamil to Kannada include the novels Ardhanareeshwara and Hoo-Konda, originally Mathorubagan and Pookuzhi by Perumal Murugan.

For Kuvempu Bhasha Bharati, he has translated Sangam poetry, and the speeches and writings of the Tamil Dravidian leader Periyar. “I have received requests to translate many more books. I usually take about four months to translate a 300-page novel. When I write, I feel like some other power is getting the words out of me. Hopefully, I will get my own novel published someday,” he says.

 “In Kannada or Tamil?” In both the languages simultaneously, of course!” he says.

Coming soon

Two of Nallathambi’s works are slated for release soon: Odai in Tamil (originally ‘Halla Banthu Halla’ by Srinivasa Vaidhya in Kannada, Sahitya Akademi), and Poonachi in Kannada (originally Poonachi by Peruman Murugan in Tamil by Westland Publishers).

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Ready for launch: two important translations

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