When I started translating Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan in 2010, blissfully unaware of the depth and the magnitude of the work, several people tried to dissuade me. One potential publisher even lured me with an offer to translate another work of Kalki. Reason: there were already many translations around. Yes, there were. But most of them, though done with utmost sincerity, failed to create the emotional bond with the readers which the original author had effortlessly done in the Fifties when Ponniyin Selvan was serialised in a popular magazine.
I did not rush up. I did not have a target or deadline. I let the translation work progress in its own pace. That explains the six long years I spent for this project. I read and re-read the first draft a dozen times before handing it over to my editors. There were many points of contention. There were issues where we could not reach a consensus easily. Finally the hard copy was ready for publication in 2016. The publisher had jitters and so did I.
We got ready rough copies of two volumes. I gave it to two of my friends, who had read the original more than sixty times, with a mandate to read them in one go. They did and said “This is the best you can do in English.”
The work culminated not when the book was released by a former Central Minister in 2016, not even when it went for three editions but when an ardent fan of Kalki sent a mail to me in 2019.
“It was as if Kalki himself rendered his great work in English.”
A chartered accountant by profession and a writer by passion Varalotti Rengasamy has written more than sixty books in English and in his mother tongue Tamil. His brand of spirituality can be summed up in five words: Love is all there is. And that explains his 750-page book with a strange title Krishna’s Kiss which tells us that Bhagavad Gita is a love letter from God. He collected many stories on God’s love, some from scriptures, some real life, some just figments of his imagination and brought it under the title Oh My God! His neurologist friend even prescribed that book to a retired man :’The best way to prevent Alzheimers’
His psychological thriller Madly In Love is also a beautiful love story that illuminates the crying need of the day ‘Let’s bring love to the table.’
His series in Dinamalar, a leading daily in Tamilnadu, is running its third season. The serial is about the love of the Presiding Deity of Madurai, Meenakshi, whom he fondly calls ‘a woman clad in green saree – Pachaipudavaikkaari.’ The contents of the first two seasons of the series have come out as books and are selling fast.
He is such a prolific writer that at times he wrote six books in a single year. But even he had to struggle relentlessly for six years for one of his books. It is the English Translation of one of the greatest historic novels of all times, the famous Tamil author Kalki’s magnum opus, Ponniyin Selvan. He still considers as the bestt thing that happened to him as a kind of training in the field of writing. Translating Kalki’s work was more like sitting at the feet of the great Master and observe him turn out his master piece.Ponniyin Selvan is a 2500 page novel set during the time of Chozha Dynasty with hundreds of characters and is now being made into a film by the famous Director Manirathnam.
“How does it feel to be a chartered accountant and a writer, the most unlikely combination of professions?” He was asked many times.
“I feel like a martial arts expert who has to balance on a wooden plank placed over a number of eggs. He has to break a brick with his bare hands without breaking the eggs beneath his feet.” – that’s his response.
“How come your love stories as well as your stories on God are so dripping with love?”
“Love is the same, whether it is shown to another human being or to the very Being of Love, described by the most hackeyed word in the language of English – God.”
While Priyam is a love story told in two different time-lines, Her Love describes the spritual journey of a human being from her mother’s womb to the feet of the Holy Mother and spans across several time lines and many characters.
His book The Weaker Sex is something you can munch during a short-haul flight journey. But his Krishnna’s Kiss is regular food which should be eaten again and again for sustenance of the soul.
‘Translated into seventy languages, his books have sold 125 million copies’ – this may be the dream-statement of every writer, not Varalotti.
Once a girl living down South attempted to kill herself. She was saved at the nick of time. The Doctor attending on her gave her one of Varalotti’s Tamil books. The girl read it in seven days and wrote a mail to Varalotti: “Had I read the book a few days back I would not have taken that foolish decision to kill myself.”
To Varlotti that is the equivalent of a Sahithya Academy Award.
Varalotti lives with his wife Indhu in Madurai.Rent Now