Subramaniya Bharathi, was a 20th century Tamil poet, who lived and died in the Indian subcontinent – which at that time, was mostly colonized by the British.
He wrote poems in Tamil – an ancient language rich in literature. Like most of its contemporaries, such as Sanskrit or Greek, only the scholars could create and savor the beauty of these languages, because special training was required to read and comprehend these heavily ornate and complex works of literature. As such, the ordinary person was excluded from partaking in the literary feast, even though colloquial versions of these works existed.
To address this disparity, which played a role in social inequalities, Bharathiyar, wrote poems in a simplified version of Tamil without compromising the beauty and eloquence of rich literature. Thus, anyone with basic literacy in Tamil could appreciate these poems/songs, without requiring a degree in literature.
His poems carried a certain amount of energy because his passion still runs through them vividly, as it spans the spectrum of human experience.
In these translations of his poetry, I strive to capture that energy, as I interpret between two culturally and structurally different languages.
The core vocabulary is translated literally as much as possible, keeping with the context of the overall meaning of the poem, while grammatically they move around quite a bit, because of the structural differences between these languages.
I hope I can do justice to Bharathiyar’s works, who was a polyglot and had edited newspapers in Tamil and English languages.