Bridging Tradition and Modernity
H Kalpana Rao
GENERATIONS (Talaimuraikal) by Neela Padmanabhan. Translated from the original Tamil by Ka. Naa. Subramaniam Niyogi Books, 2021, 244 pp., 399.99
August 2021, volume 45, No 8

Gloria Steinem once said, ‘We need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach.’ In a way, Neela Padmanabhan’s Generations is a response to this aspect of crossing and building new knowledges. The story bridges tradition and modernity as it chronicles the lives of three generations in a small town in Tamil Nadu bordering Kerala. The novel, originally written in Tamil by Neela Padmanabhan was translated into English by the esteemed Tamil writer and critic, Ka Naa Subramaniam.

The translator is to be appreciated as the vocabulary and the style of the original are naturally and effectively set forth in the translated work. Ka Naa, being a creative writer, has taken steps to see that the translation bears the footprints of the warp and weft of the community picturized. The story set in the 1940s centres around the teenager Diravi who witnesses the tumultuous events in the life of his sister Nagu. The third person narrative recounts how Diravi’s sister, Nagammai is sent home as she is rejected by her husband Perumal and his family. She is caught in between her maternal home and her husband’s home, for she is not accepted in either of them. Unable to see the humiliation and torture faced by her, Diravi takes steps that go against the normal customs and traditions of the community. The novel succinctly captures the simplicity of rural life coupled with the complexity of human relationships.

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