Stringing Words Together With Love

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

ScientiaThe Knowing Link’

Dedication:

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

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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

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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! 😀

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Painting Once Again…

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In a way poetry and painting are kindred souls. What some accomplish by a few words strung like beads together, others strive by mixing dots of paint. There is an inevitable catharsis- the hoarded up emotions furiously burst- and all is well again.  Some kind acquaintance might exclaim over your lines or appreciate your painting. Added bonus.

Why do we stop doing those things which we love, when we grow up?Because, we get into the business of living. And when life becomes regimented with multifarious responsibilities, happiness inducing hobbies take a backseat. It is only after a bad crash or two on life’s highway that the  Master Guardian-intuition- whispers again: ‘maybe time to trust the silent spectators sitting behind you offering help.’

So you pick up that dusty paper again. The paint is half dried up and the brush is so stiff that no amount of softening it with a water treatment works! You hesitate between a sketch pen and a black crayon. Then you start…And like a poem, beauty reveals itself, very sweetly.

And one remembers the sentence about the soul being on its knees….praying.

**

 

 

 

 

Each one, Teach one.

On a bright summer day in 2014, when the teachers of government schools of the district where I was working as District Magistrate, invited me for inaugurating a  sports function, I decided to pitch a challenge.

” Can you make Teaching Learning Material for  the children in the Anganwady (Govt kindergarten) in your compound ? From the material around you, using the skill and enthusiasm of your B.Ed days, getting the help from your young students in work experience classes, by contributing some money from your own pockets? These children from anganwadis can benefit with your creativity. After all, they are your future students”

To my great delight they volunteered to take up the challenge. In a matter of four months, we had organised multiple camps to distribute their TLM to the concerned anganwadis. Hundreds of schools volunteered enthusiastically and their imagination was outstanding! Except motivating them and attending all camps, and applauding as each anganwady received the TLM kit from the school, I did nothing.

Of the 1.29 lakh of anganwady kids studying, we reached out to  75,000  children through the initial response.  Mathematics, alphabets, memory tools- the talent was amazing!

This is one project which I wish ardently the civil society takes up too- if you are creative, create and donate to an anganwady next to your house.

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Step Parenting…And a Book

When I started the  English translation of this wonderful novel  written in my mother tongue, by some one I personally consider as one of the finest writers I have ever read,  the  total of the page numbers looked  rather formidable.The language- so poetic, the metaphors- deep and dark and resonating at regular intervals, the craft- exquisite, the characters- haunting. The theme – enchanting. The novel, well, as a reader let me say that I had finished it at one huge gulp, skipping breakfast and lunch.

“Wonderful,”  writes the author  and sends me her love and affection. To her, I say, “Thank  you dear…for the privilege. I learned much about myself in the journey, and hope to learn more in the years that we’ll work together. Your wise perspectives have certainly broadened my outlook in life.”

The  main character sat next to me and told me to use, “impassive” instead of “indifferent” since he said, he was really bleeding inside all the while , did I not see, as he put forth that ice cold face for the world. Somehow, he felt “impassive” caught that idea better. Well, I shrugged, you were a damn fool were you not, by the way ? You did act indifferent when so many were struggling for your compassion, so why try to take refuge under “nonchalant”  and all those synonyms  now, when  no one cares a damn any more and the truth is staring at you on the face? The fact is, I coughed, you are blind -factually and metaphorically. And unless you dare to open your own inner eyes, you will never see the truth. He looked indifferent.

When  she came in, her long hair swaying, and looked at me with her half lidded eyes, she murmured that I should try to paint her in darker tones of pain.  I am a good artist, I retort, and I know exactly how many tints of grey to colour you with. You went all out to claim what you thought was yours, did you not? And there you are – the ash coloured sari, the haunted eyes, the large heart, and that serpentine envy within you. But then, you played a brilliant last move, my dear. I wish I could have shaken you hard. From the depths of the well, she croaks out to me: I was the main heroine, did you not see? I did, I did, I say- without any words. You loved too much, you poor woman.

When she traipses in, radiant and dimpled, I take a deep look. Amazing creation! You light up lamps wherever you go, do you not-literally and metaphorically- you beautiful woman, you have that gift within, do you not ? What is that strange fascination that you hold over the male imagination? Eternal, cliched, and rather ridiculous at first impressions, if I may say so. The author, she obviously had a great time, creating you. But I, I saw the real you  only towards the end. What resilience, what strength…I am amazed by your radiance. All cliches flew out of the window as you emerged from within the dewy drops of imagination and sat down in sunshine, near me. I started liking you.

As for you, dear friend, whose palm smells like an ink plant, you epitomise what happens when friends get intimidated by those they care for. You also showcased the turmoils when a friend becomes an alter ego. Then you emerged from your friend’s shadows and you grew up fast. It took someone special, but one could see the change. Even the smell of your palm changed, did it not?

I loved the journey with all of you. A translator is like a stepparent. Though one does not give life, the responsibility of making the child thrive in a new environment, is all yours. Let us see when the child takes the stage-the world will verify if both  sets of parents had played their roles well.

Stay radiant!

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