A three day trip to Kerala is all it took for me to come back with ten Malayalam books!
My mother stared at the stack of books and asked, “You will read all these books?”
“Of course, but these aren’t enough, I need to read more....” was my reply.
I understood her worry. She didn’t want me to pay for excess baggage.
Bold and Beautiful: Reading books from regional languages
Women’s writing in regional languages is clearer than a mirror that reflects nudity. These writings bring us glimpses of a place and a person – be it the way words are said, the daily life and customs pan out, the nuances of a place and its inhabitants.
For example, Madhavikutty (or Kamala Das, author of My story, as you probably know) is a writer whose writings in Malayalam are a must-read. When I read the English translations of her books, I feel the gaps acutely and the helplessness that comes with the understanding that my mother tongue is so rich and intricate that English cannot possibly hold justice to it.
Recently, I also read The Hangwoman, which is an English translation of a bestselling Malayalam novel by K.R. Meera. After Kamala Das, I have not read any woman writer as bold as K.R. Meera. The Hangwoman will shock you out of your wits in its depiction of Chetna’s thoughts, an ordinary girl who finds herself in an unenviable position of becoming India’s first hangwoman.
Now as a reader, if I got so swept off my feet and senses by the English translation, imagine how much more powerful the Malayalam novel is.
So, here’s what I want to tell you – let's read more writings from Indian regional languages.
For reference, get a copy of the book, “Growing up as a Woman Writer” (edited by Jasbir Jain, published by the Sahitya Akademi). It’s a treasury of women’s writings all the way from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. And as you probably know, unlike many Indian English writers, a majority of these writers don’t “market” their books aggressively.
They really deserve our attention and contemplation.
And if you have any regional book reccos for me, do drop me a line with the name of the book and writer. I would love to read and revert!