Date:13/10/2008 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2008/10/13/stories/2008101350540300.htm
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Bhagawad Gita in free verse

KEV Nair has translated the Bhagawad Gita into English

Photo: Thulasi Kakkat

Laudable effort It took years of research for KEV Nair to bring out the book.

There is nothing archaic about this version of the Bhagawad Gita. KEV Nair has been at it for more than ten years. Extensive research on the content, language used in translations and the interpretations gave shape to this version that is about to go to print. Called ‘The Bhagawad Gita of Inner Courage’, it is in verse form, but the free verse kind, very much akin to prose, but metered like a poem, so that comprehension is easy and there is rhythm, besides. The words used are simple so that everybody can understand the contents.

“There are explanations of the tougher verses, where there can be ambiguity in some words, which have more than one meaning and the reader is likely to misconstrue the content,” says Nair, who has an LLB degree (with a first rank) and was Dy. SP in the CBI before he gave it all up (he took voluntary retirement) for the love of the English language and started writing books to help those who wanted to learn English better, with certain methods that he devised, with the precision of a detective!

This English Gita is also an extension of this. It is easy on the reader and does not put you off. He begins thus in his version: ‘On the field of sacred duty-the battlefield in Kurukshetra – My sons and the sons of Pandu had massed together, eager for battle, What then did they do, Sanjaya?’

For those who are wondering how he translated it from Sanskrit, Yes, Nair has mastered Sanskrit, but like those in days of yore, learning by himself. “I believe that self study is the best study. You are accountable to yourself,” he says, sitting in his library at his home at Elamakkara, dressed impeccably in formals. There are shelves and shelves of books. Several versions of Bhagawad Gita are here in many languages and son Anoop helps him find one to show us how different his version is. Most of what Krishna tells Arjuna is symbolic, so the reader should know what the bigger picture is, he feels. The verbal translations that are the order of the day are okay, but there is no wholeness in it. For that apt word which gives the translation the correct meaning, and life, much research is needed, Nair explains. Footnotes explain certain references too.

Years of hardwork

Nair describes animatedly how the Bhagawad Gita is basically not about wars or relationships, but about ‘what it takes to stay calm and triumph over adversity’.

For the message to be clear while making the language as simple as possible, Nair slogged for years, rewriting and discarding many versions.

“I must have thrown away a hundred and fifty drafts to get what I wanted,” he says, holding the proofs of his dream project, ready for printing at last, his dream almost fulfilled.

PREMA MANMADHAN

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