On romance, pink earrings and literal translations

Some Friday morning thoughts…


mi amour

my love

en kathale (Tamil)

I wake up trying to translate this into Malayalam. Doesn’t work – something is amiss. The romance, perhaps. Into Hindi, and it all crumbles; maybe the problem is with my Hindi. Urdu would have worked – it always does – but I can’t recall the right term. Need to check out French and Italian. Those people understand romance.

It’s raining outside. Drizzling, rather. Very mild. I open the kitchen window, and the light that comes in is balmy. The sand on the ground opposite looks like it has been swept by seven maids with seven mops – neat in a wet sort of way.

I am told to close the window; Shiva is paranoid when it comes to flies. But I’m in a defiant mood.

We’ve run out of bird feed, I note; even the crumbs of khari biscuit I had put out have been wiped off. I need to visit the Sharjah market and get some. The old man at the vegetable shop there keeps asking me if I want to buy ducks’ eggs. He is disappointed each time I say no.

Today we are having lunch with friends. Vishu lunch, postponed by a day. We have decided on pot luck, so there are dishes to cook. Small kitchen, small fridge, big ambitions. I like cooking, when I’m in that mood. I am.

Nostalgia used to be a beautiful word – we had seasoned our autograph books with it back in college days. It’s that kind of a word, to be used only as seasoning. Some words are like that. But now nostalgia has become a main ingredient, especially among expats in the Gulf. The charm is wearing off.

I have forgotten to fix the pressure cooker, so cooking dal for sambar is going to be a pain. Well, Amma did not have a pressure cooker for ages. Even when she did, she refused to use it – until I made a fuss. Or maybe until the maid decided to. And sambar had been a staple all along. If she could, I can.

The song that plays in my head is dhak dhak karne laga. I try to shake it off, but it doesn’t go away.

The other day I pointed out to a pair of bright pink, tassel-shaped earrings (I think the word is ‘danglers’) and asked Appu what he would do if I decided to wear them. What I do now, ‘Mma, he said. I demand to know what he meant. You might not wear those, but you’re as colourful in your own way. I’m putting up with you, right?  Adu was at school at the time, else he would have agreed with his brother. The rare times they agree with each other are such.

I decide to cheat my way through the tender jackfruit dish by using my chopper, and the old name for it, in our part of Palakkad, comes to mind: idichakka podithuval. My cousins would translate it to English: thunder-jack-powder-quill. I feel like giggling.

Pranayam is a Malayalam word I have fallen in love with. A word best said in a whisper. Poetry. As much as can be contained in a word. Like the touch of bare feet on grass, right after the rain has stopped. It’s a word that makes your toes curl.

There’s a movie by that name, with Jayaprada, Mohanlal and Anupam Kher in leading roles. I think of Mohanlal’s character. He got it right, pranayam. In all its nuances.

I google for its English equivalent…

പ്രണയം (pranayam): affection, love, sexual love, faith, devotion.

…and I despair at what we lose out to translation. 




I’m yet to finish cooking.



4 thoughts on “On romance, pink earrings and literal translations

  1. Thank you, Sudeesh. Maybe familiarity does breed contempt, even when it comes to words… For some reason, I now think of Dileep when I hear the word Nostalgia! And the FM radio has aided and abetted its downfall.

    As for Pranayam, I’m ambiguous about the movie itself, but Mohanlal was a revelation. Why is every decent movie ‘inspired’ by another?


  2. Mini,
    Your posts make me pause…pause long enough to pay attention to those little details that we overlook in a fast-paced world. This post here almost sounds like me speaking to my own self on yet another day. The running commentaries within our minds.
    My favourite lines:
    “Like the touch of bare feet on grass, right after the rain has stopped.”
    “It’s that kind of a word, to be used only as seasoning.”


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