Gliding through ‘Vagrant’s Tale’
BOOKMARK/Dr. Ramawatar Sharma
Translation may be a simple task usually but translating literary work is arduous. More complex is translating a social novel in the local language like Telugu to English and that too with its soul intact. Telugu is a complex society with a large number of social customs and conflicts, ideological divisions and opinions and religious beliefs and rituals. It is a fast changing society with global exposure but old traditions still exist alongside the very modern way of life. Indeed, rightly so, G.K. Subbarayudu says that he has transformed, not translated "GRAHAANTARAVAASI”, a Telugu novel, into English.
The book, yes it should be called a book, as it may not be a novel alone; it may be a cultural history, an autobiography, a rambling prose or all of them combined. The original Telugu version is a masterpiece work of Rani Sivasankara Sarma in which he writes an allegory about an entire Telugu culture. His characters are visible everywhere in the society and the reader can easily correlate with them.
The English version of this literary work is titled as "VAGRANT'S TALE" mediated by G.K.Subbarayudu. The book takes off slowly but after first few pages gets into cruising gear. As the characters appear one after another they become part of day to day observation of the reader who would have seen them so many times in the life. Prejudices from past lingering to date, the curse of infanticide , tragedy of widowhood and suppression of female sexuality have been depicted in such a way to make the reader ponder over these issues again and again. The author has dared to expose the falsehood of male sexuality, uncommonly discussed in Indian literature, and the truthfulness of narration is both comic and thought-provoking. Similarly, the hypocrisy of those social revolutionaries regarding caste and class has been depicted in a soul-stirring way and it indicates the author's in depth knowledge of social engineering of Telugu or, perhaps, the whole Indian society.
The colonial British rule has influenced India in many ways. The older values, traditions and teachings were put on the test initiating a lot of debates thereby. The author surely has an in-depth knowledge of these conflicts of culture as well as influence of Christianity on the Telugu society. Post-independence, there appeared caste and economic conflicts. The changing psychology of the masses, though very complex, has been fictionalized to make hilarious reading.
Andhra Pradesh has been a hub of communism since long in India with hopes of salvation for the underprivileged, though mostly misplaced and without any in-depth study of its relevance to Indian society. This particular situation is brilliantly portrayed with exposure of the double standards of its various proponents.
Gliding halfway through the book, the Telugu society enlarges to represent almost all of India and this is the beauty of this wonderful narration of human life in such a diversified nation. The prose of Subbarayudu flows effortlessly and catches the soul of the original work as was wished by him in preface.
The author is former professor English Literature, Osmania University, Hyderabad and is passionate about translating or rather "rendering" the Telugu literature to English. "Vagrant's Tale" is compiled in 170 pages; paperback edition. It is published by Authors Press, New Delhi and is priced at Rs. 250. The publisher can be visited at: