Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Beginnings and Ends
"ஆதி அந்தமில்லாத கால வெள்ளத்தில் கற்பனை ஓடத்தில் ஏறி நம்முடன் சிறிது நேரம் பிரயாணம் செய்யுமாறு நேயர்களை அழைக்கிறோம். "
Loosely translated, it means "In the flowing waters of Time, without beginning or end, in the boat of Imagination, we ask our readers to travel with us for a little while."
That was the starting line of the 20th century Tamil epic novel 'Ponniyin Selvan' written in serialized form by Kalki. It was also the first line in any Tamil novel, that I, a neophyte who had only laboriously made my way through tiny jokes in the magazines, was attempting to read. My mother plunked the book down in front of me "You can try reading this, to improve your Tamil", she suggested.
What did the first word mean, then the next, then the next. I think that I asked her several times before I manage to complete the first page, till she told me. "Don't worry about not knowing the meaning of every word. Just keep reading."
So that's what I did. To my amazement, I was hooked on the storyline by about chapter 3 or thereabouts, and continued reading in every minute of spare time I could muster. I would glare at the clock, showing me that it was time to leave for school, begging for another 5 minutes to finish the chapter, which never came. That had to wait till I tossed my satchel and grabbed the book after I raced home.
This was my equivalent of the Lord of the Rings craze, or in later years the Harry Potter phenomenon. A book so well-crafted, wonderful characters and plots galore that I would spend entire evenings making lists of characters and drawing trees connecting each to another in terms of relationships.
The years passed, the memories faded, but that of the first enchantment still lingers. Now and then, whispers build up of X the famous actor, or Y the famous director, optioning the book to make a movie out of it. But how will they compress five volumes of non-stop action, intrigue, chivalry and romance into a two or even three hour screenfest?
It's just as well that such projects have either been shelved or set on the backburner. Let the dreams of the dreamers reading the book remain just so. The book still commands a fan club all its own, after all these years.