Sunday, October 15, 2006

"Waterness" by Na Muthuswamy

My periappa (uncle) recently bought me a book called "Waterness", a translation of ten of Na Muthuswamy's short stories by Lakshmi Holmstrom. He signed the book, saying, "Dear Janani, here is a peep into a Tanjore District village very near to a place dear to our hearts. Enjoy reading what we experienced in our younger days." Very true. I really am enjoying reading this book, although not all the memories recreated in the book are pleasant (the story titled 'Death' for example).

My uncles and dad have spent many a happy vacation in Tanjore at their aunt's place, and till date they joyfully recollect the fields, the bullock and horse carts, the house, the pond, the river, the well, and so on. I've also grown up hearing stories of Tanjore from my grandfather, who was born and brought up in a village called Maavur, in the Tanjore district. Therefore, this is indeed a special book as far as I am concerned.

Na Muthuswamy is one who can lucidly conjure up images of people and places in our minds, whether through his short stories or through his plays. Through his theatre group called 'koothu-p-pattarai' he has been successful in popularising the traditional street play art of Tamilnadu, in the villages AND in the city! I have been lucky enough to see one or two of his wonderful albeit simple street plays (the themes of the plays I saw were simple because they were for an audience of school students).

Lakshmi Holmstrom, not surprisingly, has done an amazing translation. Here is the blurb of the book for those of you who are interested...

"Playwright, director, founder member of the theatre group Koothu-p-pattarai, short story writer and essayist, Na Muthuswamy fulfils each role he undertakes. Waterness brings you ten of his most unforgettable and beautifully crafted stories, in excellent translations in Lakshmi Holmstrom. Stories which recreate in fine detail the richness of life in the village of Punjai in the heart of Thanjavur district, seen from the perspective of modern urban life and its alienating pressures. Stories of a lifestyle that no longer exists, told realistically without romanticizing or idealizing, using fantasy and surrealism. Stories built around memories, about memory, the mythologizing of memory, and paralleling memory and dream."

Ta ta, then! I'm going back to reading the book.

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