Moral stories from the south- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  It was during his school days that the English translation of Pattole Palame, a compilation of folklore, released, mesmerising author Nitin Kushalappa MP. “After school, I would visit Gangaram’s, take the book from the shelf, read it for a while and place it back when it was time for me to leave. I did this until I was able to collect some pocket money over several months, from the change I could spare from bus fare tickets and tea snacks. With this money, I bought the book at Gangaram’s finally,” he shares.

It was this and perhaps several other stories he had heard from his grandparents and relatives that made Nitin take a liking towards folklore. He began reading, writing and seeking more of it. A compilation of his years of living with folklores is Dakshin  – South Indian Myths and Fables Retold. The book on moral stories has 15 retellings of regional folk tales from the southern states. There is the story of Bala Nagamma, the Moon Prince, the cat and the fly and other famous regional tales, which might be lesser-known to English readers.   

Each chapter ends on a moral note. Nitin says that there were more than 15 stories he had written for the book and the themes ranged from love and religion to spirituality and death, which was dropped keeping in mind the audience. 

Nitin calls himself a “random reader” and this book was a long time in the making. With a day job as an engineer, he makes time for his passion. “I do enjoy reading, writing and studying. I did my writing work during the weekends or when I was free. I have had to make some sacrifices, and cut down on time with family and friends. My latest book brought out the child in me and with it many of my childhood memories,” he shares.

Excerpts follow:
Can you tell us about your childhood with your grandparents, the kind of stories you listened to? 

My grandfather was in the army. He told us stories about Coorg and tales that he heard in the army. My mother and my uncles were also storytellers, and our other relatives had stories to tell too. 
Both sides of my family had many books in their houses. I spent a lot of my time in these home libraries. I read comics, fiction, non-fiction and various other genres. Some of the Indian comics, especially Amar Chitra Katha, were based on mythology and folklore.  

At home, my parents deliberately didn’t allow us to have satellite television. This was to ensure that we read books. Hence, books were what entertained us. There was only Doordarshan for us. Once in a while, when we visited friends or relatives, I remember watching television at their places. 
Some of our school teachers were great storytellers. I remember one primary school teacher, Mrs Leo in particular. I spent a lot of time in our school library. I began writing as a kid. I would write down stories that I heard and read. As I grew up, I somehow didn’t discard these notes. 

What was the idea behind Dakshin? 
Some years ago, I was reading AK Ramanujan’s books on Indian folklore. I liked the methods he used while recording and narrating the stories. I was also reading folklore from Europe, North America, Bhutan, Bihar, Marwar, Punjab and other regions, besides mythical stories and fables.  
There is one particular song called Govina Haadu. It is a popular Kannada song which was taught to children. I learnt it in my school textbook. Nearly everybody in Karnataka knows this song. I have heard several people quote lines from this song. There is something about this song which makes people emotional or nostalgic. I had translated this song word by word, and kept it aside for some years. 

I was also working on my own retellings of the translated songs in Pattole Palame, a compilation of folk songs. I tried searching for different versions in different villages of Coorg, and in other books. 
A few years ago, my book agent Suhail Mathur of The Bookbakers and I were chatting online about potential book projects. There was a requirement to write a book of regional folklore. I was supposed to choose a region or a state. My first choice was to write either on Kodagu (Coorg) or Karnataka. But I found that there was not much material on South Indian folklore itself. So I finally decided to write on folklore from south India and the Deccan. Suhail thought it was a good idea and encouraged me to continue working on this. That is when I grew more focussed. 

How do you think these lesser-known regional tales can be made more popular? 
While preparing for this book, a careful decision was to be made about each story — whether it was worth including or not and how similar or different it was from the original version or the different versions of the tale. We tend to learn more of English and less of our own mother tongues. This has got to do with English becoming the common ground for conversation among people from different languages. If a native speaker doesn’t learn their mother tongue, there is hardly any chance that somebody else will learn it. This way, due to disuse, a language gets lost. 

Every language has its stories. Unfortunately, they remain within the language. With globalisation, languages are quickly disappearing. The Kodava language, also called Coorgi, Coorg or Kodagu, is an endangered language. When a language disappears, the knowledge that was associated with it also disappears. A lifestyle and culture which goes with the language vanishes as well. Translations are unable to completely capture the essence of a story in its original language. 

How do you want this book to make an impact?
These days the visual media has taken up space from the print media. Not many people read books. In the past, parents and caretakers would tell children stories to make them eat and sleep. These days, we tend to allow them to watch YouTube and other videos on smartphones and television. Visual media leaves less room for imagination. Children get addicted to devices and tend to lose out on their creative skills. I hope the habit of reading books makes a comeback. Most successful storytellers are often not authors but script writers. We cannot stop the march of globalisation and progress. Also, I hope filmmakers would make more movies on folklore in our country. 

Why is Coorg often a central subject in your books?
I was born in Coorg and brought up in Bengaluru. My entire education was in Bengaluru. My younger sister and I would spend our vacations in Coorg. I would write on various topics. Around ten years ago, I began a blog. I also wrote to the newspapers. I noticed that my articles on Coorg found more acceptance than my other articles. This must be because a number of people consider me to be an expert on matters pertaining to Coorg. So, I continued to write a lot on Coorg. 

The lessons from each of the stories in the book are plenty, yet you mention only one or two at the end of each chapter. Was it with the intention of making parents and children draw their own interpretation?
To be frank, I initially had long paragraphs on the lessons learnt. The editor Arpita Nath wisely recommended just a couple of lines for each moral lesson and made cuts wherever required. The children and their parents can then go back to the story and discuss it in detail among themselves and understand the lessons better.  

What’s in the pipeline? 
I hope to write more books for children and for other audiences as well. There is another book in the pipeline, this time for older audiences. The manuscript is complete. I have sent it to my book agents Suhail Mathur and The Bookbakers.

Book: Dakshin – South Indian Myths and Fables Retold
Publisher: Puffin Books
Pages: 236 
Price: Rs 299

Source link

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *