Whither Goest Thou Lord?

kishkinda Kanda

Kishkindha Kanda getting ready…the first look!

“Quo Vadis, Domine?” Whither Goest Thou Lord?

Take me with you always…a speck of dust clinging at your beautiful feet. What majestic sights you show me all the while!

Josh Groban’s beautiful lyrics are the best to denote my feelings: (Thank you  Kathu for making me listen to this!)

You Raise Me Up

“When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit awhile with me
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be…”

Cats and Porcupines



‘Next time I will make you a porcupine,’ says my elder daughter. It is a warning in the guise of sibling love.

‘Nah! Persian cat with green eyes. The one which asked God whether He was seated in her chair!’  My younger girl replies. That is a rejoinder of untrammeled self confidence which is utterly undisguised.

The sequel of my daughter’s novel ‘Scientia’ is undergoing publication. It is called Eva, short for Evangelista. It is peppered with feisty women scientists, wise mentors, handsome men, and cats…

Little girl has trouble over the fact that the pesky cat does not get to star much in the book unlike the first one. Chechi has been ruthless with her pen; and has snipped off her  nose-in-the air, prima donna scenes mercilessly.

‘You get to banter with the dog, be thankful for that, brat!’

‘Huh! I know, I know.’

I conclude that in the scenes where she does appear, she gets an upper-claw over a doggy. Poor dog.

‘I have a serious issue to bring to your notice. Whenever grandma calls, she asks about you first. That is major unfairness. We have been studying equity and equality recently in school.’ Persian cat purrs dangerously.

Chechi cackles in abandoned glee.

‘Well, well, certain facts in life have to be accepted. She loves me more.’

‘There is something called majority opinion.’

‘Since when has one been a majority?’

‘ I am adding my cousins here. You should not hog all the attention all the time.’ Persian cat bares her pretty teeth.

Chechi giggles openly. She knows that certain statements need no answers. They are the divine truth.


I advise my mother that certain family undercurrents need firm resolution. She should be neutral when it came to showing her love for the grand kids.

She chortles like my elder girl. They share the same eyes, delicate bone structure, and the indomitable will.

I am determined to not let that laugh sidetrack me.

‘Please call the little girl today. Ask about her this time!’

‘ Okay. I will have a chat with her soon. You know she is exactly like you. Remember when you were always cribbing over your brother getting all the attention? That child has your eyes and attitude by the way.’

Now I am in the mood to ask my elder girl to create a couple of more porcupine relatives in the next book….



The rain speaks a million tongues…

Another book is born…Gratitude to Prof.Veerankutty for allowing me to translate some of his wonderful poems.






Translator’s Note

Another Book is getting ready:

The Heaviness of the Rain ( Anthology of selected poems- Translated from Malayalam)

Author: Prof. Veeran Kutty

IMG_2491Prof. Veeran Kutty’s poems have a wonderful simplicity and charm about them. They remind me of Haiku and Sufi literature equally. To capture majestic ideas into few lines- soaked with beauty-is a rare skill. The poems make us better human beings- by teaching us compassion, tolerance, kindness and love.
Translating these poems has been an enjoyable experience for me. I had started off by translating a few of his published poems on my wordpress blog. Prof. Veeran Kutty read those and encouraged me warmly. That helped me to compile this collection.

I hope and pray that the readers feel the enchanting loveliness of Kerala- the state to which both of us belong to – that have inspired many of these spiritual outpourings.


Stringing Words Together With Love

Excerpt from my daughter Sandra Nair’s novel, to be published in 2018.

ScientiaThe Knowing Link’


Richard Mitchell
A beautiful diamond among teachers.
An inspiration for generations of students.

Author’s Note (TO BE READ FIRST!)

I’m sure most readers would notice something familiar about the names of the characters- each of them is named after multiple scientists. I used more from the field of (theoretical) physics and mathematics than others. Call it a personal bias. After all, those are the two subjects I’m pursuing degrees in 🙂

My dear Dr. Richard Mitchell, I borrowed your name for one character (Who, btw, is nothing at all like you. After all, you love cats and cats love you!), and your personality for another. The character that I put the most emotional effort into, who also happens to be my personal favorite, Isaac Sklodowski, is (very loosely) based on you. I remember how fond you are of Mr. Isaac Newton (as seen in the first problem set for Math 20B, Winter Quarter 2016,  UCSC). I hope I did justice to your dedication as a teacher. Oh, FYI, readers can picture Isaac as David Tennant in the role of the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who, albeit with black hair and eyes.

This work is a fictionalized account of what happens when physics and spirituality encounter the first year of college in the US. I admit, quite a few characters and incidents were inspired by real life. If you recognize yourselves, but feel bad for whatever reason, please keep in mind that the only reason you are there to begin with is cuz I ❤ you guys. Every one of you. Yes, I suppose that includes my eleven-year-old sister, who is, believe it or not, an even more outrageous version of Julia the bionic cat.

Finally, the real girl behind Scientia has a very important message for the real boy behind Richard. She says, and I quote: “The theoretical physics you put in so much effort over the last couple of years, be it QFT or various mathematical methods, would be completely wasted in a corporate environment. Do a favor to yourself as well as future generations of scientists. Consider continuing in academia. We need more of those who are willing and able to share the knowledge they acquire.” She really means it sincerely.

Sandra Nair


Kathu, I am so proud of you! For not only being a good student, creative writer and a loving daughter (affectionate sister? Cough, cough! A cat got my nose:) but also a lovely, beautiful human being.

Life is a mixed bag. You might end up with  certain people and circumstances who do everything they can to laugh at your dreams and go out of their way to harm your interests. However, for each such person and set back, there will be a wonderful human being on the path ahead: an unexpected friend, a great teacher, a caring mentor…all from the Universe’s never ending bounty.

Stay rooted, stay creative, stay happy. Never under estimate your own inner light. It might kindle much needed light and warmth in many sensitive hearts.

Happy New Year. Happy New Book!



A View From Within


It started with a birthday gift. A book of poetry in my mother tongue. Today, I am part of another journey because of it.An anthology – a collection of selected writings that have been translated into English- is now taking form. I hope it gives joy and serenity to the readers when published.

Another wonderful translation project of a novel is taking off. The title and blurb are being discussed. The excitement of another intellectual adventure is giving me wings! The edits will begin soon. The searching for words : which will capture nuances, accommodate different reading sensibilities, transcend language barriers, convey scalpel sharp emotions, and yet remain unique!

Answering the intelligent questions of multiple editors, defending the choice of phrase or giving way gracefully, listening to the concerns of the author as her beloved child enters into a different world( Will she stumble? Will she float? Will she walk and run at ease into the readers’ heart?)….these are the challenges known only to a translator. Sometimes I reflect that being mother to two daughters- strong, self willed, opposite as chalk and cheese- has prepared me for this role. You should have no ego when it comes to this assignment. You just let the words flow through you, with a silent prayer.

My friends often ask me about how I find time to do my  translation assignments.  My answer is simple. It gives me joy, so I find the time. It energises me, so I often run to it. It is incredibly fulfilling, so it is worth the effort.

Actually, if you sit before a 200 paged novel and dream of translating it at one go, it will never happen. But if you decide to take one paragraph at a time, and one page at a time….then the mind becomes confident. It is all about our perception after all.

‘So, why don’t you write your own books?’  I grin and say that I translate better than I write! Believe me, I have tried both. The  reviews and the award long/shortlists came faster with the former!

Besides, have you ever tried to get inside another’s head? It is akin to a Psychologist’s job! And so, I translate! 😀


A Step At A Time…


The last few chapters arrive for correction. The artist has done a spectacular job. As I edit, snipping a word here, adding a comma there, I stare at the divine pictures.

The journey has come to an end: Sundar Kanda- 156 pages, 50 chapters.  And quietly a book is born.  The end is  actually a beginning. As always in life.

But I cannot leave Hanumanji alone. The journey with Him has changed my life. How can I let go now- when the joy of describing everything about Him has got me addicted? It is like inhaling camphor in the temple. So I promise myself that the next book on Him is going to be Kishkindha Kand. The thought energises me. Another journey to look forward to. Great!

What have I learnt in the presently concluded one? That I am never alone. That the shield of divine protection encompasses me and my loved ones at all times. That one can achieve seemingly impossible tasks with His blessings. That detachment  is not just a philosophy but a very strongly protected forcefield. If the focus is on Him, everything meaningless falls on the wayside- what remains is what is meant to remain. Fair enough for this life journey.



Amritasya Narmada: Divine Nectar For The Soul

When this beautiful book was given to me, I was told, “You will enjoy the beauty of Amritlal Vegad’s writing and his lovely sketches. Try if you can translate this one.”

Hindi and I, are like ahem, not so friendly neighbours. We exist side by side, because there is no other alternative for either of us.

For instance, Mother Hindi  shudders with hurt sensitivity when I say that ‘motorbike aaya.’ My  indignant  ten year old tells me, ‘Amma  please do not speak such wrong Hindi- motorbike is a lady! Motorbike aayi.’

I am another bewildered Mother. I see a scooter and happily recalling my lessons, say, ‘Scooter aayi!’ When I look around for approval, my little one frowns formidably, as if I were a lost cause! ‘ Oho, Ma! Scooter is a male! Scooter aaya!Don’t you ever get it?’

Jeez! I will never get it, sorry! There is no human logic behind that sort of stuff! Then I realise that many times, my staff  members are struggling to contain their smiles, because I mess up the genders of common nouns. Why the heck do the non living things have  a gender at all, eh?  And who decides? Well, well…


So, back to Vegadji. Amritlal Vegad, is a much acclaimed writer,a gifted and awarded artist and an environmental activist.He made travel writing, a supreme art form in  Hindi and Gujarati literature.

Narmada, as per Hindu lores, is the only divine river whose parikrama is spiritually deemed precious to Hindus: walking along her shores from origin  at Amarkantak, to the final merger with the Arabian Sea. She is called Narmada- the Giver of Joy, Reva- the One who Leaps, and is the only river in North India that flows west, flowing majestically between the Vindhya and Satpura ranges. She is one of the seven rivers praised in our daily prayers:

Gange Cha Yamune Chaiva

Godavary, Saraswathy

Narmada Sindhu Kavery,

Jalesmin Sannidham Kuru

The journey, as attempted by many  sadhus, walking barefoot through the shores, by seeking bhiksha or alms from the places they reach, is supposed to take 3 years, 3 months and 13 days. The parikammavasi, has to cover 2624 kilometres, covering both shores of this revered river.

Amritlal Vegad covered the southern shore, walking 1800 kilometres in the period of 1977-1988.

He wrote ‘ Saundarya Ki Nadi Narmada’-Narmada: The River of Beauty, based on his travels.  His wit, sharp observations, benign philosophy, the strange personalities he met, the description of the mighty river and her flow- are inimitable and considered supreme literature. His beautiful sketches of the various travellers and villagers, especially the Bhils  and Gonds who habitate the Dandakaranya regions of the river, are legendary.

In the period of 1996-1999, Vegadji travelled by foot again, through the  northern shores of Narmada. On 3rd October 1997, he turned 70. In twenty days he covered 230 kilometres by foot- through jungles, weathering rain and wind, sun and tough soil, meeting many pilgrims, in the never ending adventure of a spiritual sojourn.

In his own words in ‘ Amritasya Narmada'( Narmada, the Divine Nectar), ‘Main abhi jeern-sheern nahin hua/ Adhva, jeern to ho gaya hun, par sheern nahi hua/ Chust bhale hi na raha, par durust to hu!’

I am yet to turn decrepit! Or in other words, I am weather beaten, still not yet weak! I might not be smart, yet I am decently able bodied!


I am an eccentric reader- I start from the comments section sometimes. I first read Vegadji’s wife’s article: My Husband (Mere Pati), and tried to understand the man himself. I read about the thrill of readers as expressed in their letters to the editor, as they explored his travelogues often serialised in Dharmayug, in Sakshatkar, in Vagarth- all literary magazines of great repute!

‘ Aapke lekh kya hai, mano sanskriti ke virat bhitti chitra hai’, writes a reader from Hapud.

‘ What can I say of your writing- they are like the majestic cave paintings of our culture!’

(We have to remember that the Bhimbetka cave paintings, dating to more than 20,000 years ago, were discovered on the shores of Narmada. )

‘Viswa prasiddh Nobel puraskar vijeyta Russi upanyaskar Mikhail Sholokov Ki anthyatam kriti ‘Dhire Baho Don’ ki yaad  dila  di…’ writes some other erudite reader.

‘ Your writing reminded me of the  world famous, Nobel prize winning Russian novelist Mikhail Sholokov’s book: And  Quiet Flows The Don!’


I sit amazed, humbled, and totally awed by the book in my hand. I turn the pages reverentially. This is like the pure water of Narmada herself. I ask my little daughter to give me her pencil; there are so many words that I do not comprehend. I need to research their meanings. Yet, it is a joy to read. His sense of humour, his perfect understanding of the human destiny amidst the majestic flow of the river, his quirky turn of phrase – are simply amazing.

I open a random chapter: ‘ Maunimata ke ashram se Karaundi (From MauniMata’s hermitage to Karaundi), and start reading…

Then, I thank God that Hindi and I are not adversarial neighbours. I am genuinely getting to like her a lot!


Carrying The Words Across


The New Year ushers in a  special new book : one in which I have played the translator’s role, translating from Malayalam to English.

If you read quotes about the art of translation, you will find intriguing opinions. From Paul Aster to Umberto Eco, Borges to Rabassa, they all have their views on this mirroring technique. Frost, of course, told us all about what is lost in translation.( But I  seriously disliked that Coppola movie.)

I enjoy translating from one language to another. But my enjoyment need not translate ( forgive the pun) to another’s rating of its quality.Luckily, being a bureaucrat has its advantages- like Eeyore the donkey, we are always prepared for the worst. Nothing really cheers you up. Nothing actually gets you down. We just carry on with the job at hand.

The adventure of getting inside the head of another, checking every jot and tittle(that is from the great Rabassa himself!), being comprehensible, being dispassionate, willingly detached, letting go…the closest analogy would be a spiritual experience.

Here’s wishing more such experiences in the beautiful new year! May we all love what we do. May we all get to do what we love. May we all make our loved ones proud. May we all gain energy from the Nay-Sayers and sceptics. May we all read and grow everyday.




Who is Laughing Out There?

jane eyre

When my little daughter groaned about the sadness of Jane Eyre, not finding it enjoyable as Pride and Prejudice, I asked her to watch a movie version with me. She started with much huffing and puffing, protests and sniffs.
By the time I stopped the episode at a critical spot, especially when Jane starts suspecting Grace Poole, little girl was most annoyed.
“Who was laughing?If not Grace Poole, then who?”
“Read the book,” I said, heartlessly.
She scowled at me. Much later,closing the last page of the abridged version, she declared: “I want to see Bertha.”

I remembered a summer vacation when Jeremey Brett started haunting us all in TV- during Sundays, as Sherlock Holmes. My most intense prayer every day would be that the electricity stayed put for the precious one hour or less next Sunday, as the episode played out,part by part. I was hooked from the very first episode: “The speckled band”.
There was no Sherlock Holmes collection at home. My mother gave in finally, on the promise of doing all summer homework on the first week itself, and daily ‘deposited’ me enroute work- in the “Reference Section” of the Trivandrum Public Library. The original works were compiled there- with the beautiful illustrations from Strand magazine- golden edged, red-velvet bound -one  helluva joy of a book! Soon, I became the expert on Holmes in my family. The best part of that summer holidays was the discovery of enjoying both the book and the visual depictions: the permutations and combinations offered to the intellect were amazing!

“Sure,” I  replied,  “let us watch the mad woman in the attic.”

Post script: Little girl decided that Joan Fontaine was the most beautiful Jane among all versions. I told her that most probably, the casting director had not read the novel- Ms. Fontaine is neither small nor obscure or plain! (By the way,Elizabeth Taylor starred as Helen Burns in the same 1943 version! )