Mastery over the form

Print edition : September 02, 2016

Ku Pa Rajagopalan, popularly known as Ku Pa Ra, was one of the famous Manikodi trio who shaped the modern Tamil short story. He was not only a creative writer but also a noted journalist and translator. He is known for his compassionate portraits of women and this nuanced story epitomises his concern for them.

It is set in the crowded bylanes of Triplicane, Chennai, where several families huddle together in one-room tenements in a single building. The pangs of Savitri, whose husband is away in the army, are beautifully captured. A loving young couple next door forms a perfect foil to her longing mind. By a seemingly innocent act, she destroys their harmony, to the point of making the other girl feel like a shameless, wanton woman. Overcome with remorse, Savitri, who is sensitive and introspective, instantly bursts into tears, deeply ashamed of herself.

In a lesser hand, this story would have surely been maudlin, rife with trite monologues. But, true to his reputation, Ku Pa Ra, displays his complete mastery over the form. The entire story is structured on convincing dialogues. The strength of the story, therefore, hinges on the natural conversational exchanges, almost prodding the reader to keep pace with them. So natural are they that you feel as if you are eavesdropping on people’s conversations. The real predicament while translating was to bring out the complexities that lay hidden in the simple sentences.

Dilip Kumar and Subashree Krishnaswamy

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