'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On Friendship

"There is a ship that sails, day by day, in the lap(sic) of Time. That ship is Friendship'" That was a near literal translation of a Telugu song which is a free translation of a Tamil song, which merely says, among other things: "Friendship is a ship that never sinks!"

I don't understand friendship well. Once when challenged by someone to define it, I could only say: "a friend is someone who you really want to help and who you are sure of receiving help from" - as simplistic as that. A well-wisher once told me: "I am aware, most of your friendships do not last very long. I can readily see a common factor - all those friendships involved YOU! - and that should give you a clue as to why they don't last!"

I won't talk more about myself but shall try to translate the most telling - and understated - evocation of friendship I have ever read. It is from O.V.Vijayan's 'Khasak'.

The context: Towards the end, Ravi is about to quit the village school teacher's job at Khasak and to leave the scene, seemingly for good. The local tailor Madhavan Nair had been a great help with the school and with many other practicalites, in a very unobtrusive way. The two men had also unofficially been guardians of the village idiot 'Kili', recently orphaned. Note: the stuff in brackets is mine.

Khasak was hit by a violent storm and torrential rain for a few days...

"The day the storm abated, Ravi and Madhavan Nair found themselves walking up the slopes of Chetali. It was near sunset. Khasak glimmered in the distance....

"Where will Kili sleep?" Ravi asked.

"Where else, but my shop!" said Madhavan Nair.

They walked back, down the slopes, past palms felled by the storm...

- "Madhavan Nayare! Sad, Kodachi (a woman who used to sell liquor and much else to wayfarers) is dead."

- "Yes, was quite a shock..." Madhavan Nair trailed off.

- "And who lives in the hut beyond?"

- "Oh, it is our Nani;.... and she seems to have caught leprosy"

Their conversation turned more desultory. Ravi talked about some movie. Madhavan Nair described a fireworks display he had recently seen in Trissur. And they talked...

They parted at the gate of the school (which had also been Ravi's residence). Ravi paused awhile. Madhavan Nair walked without looking back; As he climbed the slope into the village, Madhavan Nair thought of going back to the school. He approached his shop - "Tonight, Ravi will sleep in the school. Maybe sometime later, I could just walk across and wake him up and we could sit and talk a bit more; and then, I could take leave; and maybe I could again go over...".


The next day, Ravi woke up very early. ..... As he stepped out, bag and umbrella in hand, he left the key on the door frame - he had told Madhavan Nair it would be there....

There is a personal reason for trying try to translate the above passage (as literally as I can, with a minimum of editing) - rather than quote from the 'official' English translation of this masterpiece, done by Vijayan himself. To self, this translation, in spite of the amazing lyricism it often achieves, has some serious problems: For instance, in the above passage, there is an unnecessary "Madhavan Nair felt an urge to be with Ravi a little longer." and later "Ravi had told Madhavan Nair not to come; he wanted to avoid a farewell". And earlier in the passage, there is also an equally unnecessary translation of the name 'Kodachi' as 'the woman of the mountain mist'


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