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Silver Tongue Srinivasa Sastry is this week’s rediscovery from my attic. Tamil word ‘paran’ is one of several words knocked out of existence in the language. Part of the old-time Tamils’ common lingo, paran meant attic or loft, an indispensable feature of houses built in those days, mostly in villages, where ironically all things dispensed with or condemned are dumped. So, quite naturally over the years paran became a synonym for archival space.
The paran is home to old bottles, vessels gifted to grand-daughters for wedding by grandmas and great-grandmas, easy-chairs that used to keep the grandfathers, mostly couch potatoes in the twilight of their life, three-legged chairs bereaved of one leg, a wedding blanket in tatters, walking sticks that walk no longer, jugs pickles are replaced with cobwebs in, moth-eaten post-card and inland letters dripping with affectionate words of close blood relations….. all memories and materials that sank into oblivion are sleeping uncared for and unnoticed as rejects in paran.
In moments of pure serendipity, my paran throws up books from a trunk-box of grandfathers’ times. The books, dog-eared and silverfish-eaten, now and then tumble out of a pile of books predating 1950 – a pile that is a hunting forest of moths and insects.
This column brings the books of antiquity one by one to light. An intro about an old book and some excerpts make up this column.
An old Tamil book Bhoologa Rahasiyam enum Mathimosak Kalanjiyam (encyclopedia on conning aka earthly secret) ferreted out of my attic was introduced to the readers.
(Note: Most of the books that figure in this column are out of edition. Yet sometimes as it turns out, some old books are found brought out in new editions. That can be condoned as it will not be a regular occurrence).
Now the old book this column brings back to the present-day memory is Meendum Vaazhnthaal (If [I] live again) published by Kalaimagal Publishers way back in 1944. The Tamil book was written by Right Honorable Silver Tongue Srinivasa Sastry who was celebrated for his astounding English knowledge so amazing that a story goes that he once corrected a linguistic error in a native Englishman’s English. That will be elaborated later.
For now, another dimension of the Silver Tongue scholar’s personality is brought to light by a pretty old book. That is his sparkling and sweet Tamil prose no less masterly than his English.
Meendum Vaazhnthaal, by Srinivasa Sastry, is a first person account with dollops of humour that cast a spell on the readers.
In the days when the book was widely read, several thought the book was a Tamil translation of the scholar’s English book because he was more well-known for excellence in English rather than in Tamil. But the publisher Ki. Vaa. Jagannathan confirmed that the Tamil was written very much by Srinivasa Sastry himself.
A prologue from the publisher of the book says as follows: “Silver Tongue Srinivasa Sastry has written in Tamil for the first time. Several have doubted if the Tamil book is really his. They have mistakenly thought someone has translated his original writing into English. But fortunately, he has written several articles and his autographic memoirs in Tamil. As he is widely read, highly experienced and a keen lover of Tamil, is it a wonder that his writing in Tamil is brimming with charm?”
Here are some samples of his Tamil articles.
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