Book Reviews

Sundaram Learns, Translation by Dr. V.V.B. Rama Rao

Chaduvu is the name of the original novel in Telugu. The novel, ‘Chaduvu’ was written by Kodavatigante Kutumba Rao belonging to the erstwhile Madras Presidency. It was published in 1952 The book is set in pre-independent India in the area, which constitutes present day Andhra Pradesh.

Dr. V.V.B. Rama Rao, eminent academician, scholar and bilingual writer translated the book into English. This is ‘Sundaram Learns’. The translation was published by Sahitya Akademi in 1998. Kodavatigante Kutumba Rao was one of those brilliant writers, who could convey the reality of life in his books. One of the most outstanding abilities of Kodavatigante Kutumba Rao is his ability to weave the socio-political-economic and cultural milieu of the first half of the twentieth century in India into the fabric of his books.

One is impressed by the insights of the author, Shri. Kutumba Rao and his understanding of the smaller details of the human lives. Small pieces of information taken from the Hindu scriptures have been brilliantly inserted in various parts of the book. The minute details of Indian living have been intelligently woven into ‘Chaduvu’. Some of the traditional Indian rituals have been beautifully presented in the novel. Minor details like offering ‘dakshina’ have been beautifully incorporated. For example, the description of the ‘Tamboola’ is so exceptional. The traditional Tamboola contains both dal and jaggery.

Another notable feature of Kutumba Rao’s writing is that it is semi-autobiographical. Kodavatigante Kutumba Rao’s own marriage was a child marriage. In his book, ‘Chaduvu’, the protagonist also goes in for child marriage. He is a victim of child marriage, one of the many evil social practices existing in pre-independent India. The author has touched upon multiple social issues in the book including untouchability, child marriage, widow remarriage and the status of women, in general.

Another notable feature of Kutumba Rao’s works is his ability to observe the details of human living. The following line gives us a brilliant understanding of the brilliant mind of Shri. Kutumba Rao.

‘He especially liked the things that she did unhurriedly; cutting vegetables, cleaning and filling lamps and lanterns, cooking, sitting near the chullah. He felt he was looking at a great scene.’ It is the marvellous ability of Shri. Kodavatigante Kutumba Rao to make the details of small matters to appear in such a magnificent way. It is the magnificent translation of the book into English by Dr. V.V.B.Rama Rao that has made the book reach the masses. Dr. V.V.B. Rama Rao has made special efforts to ensure that the smallest details in the original translation do not lose their meaning in translation.

One also notices several similarities between ‘Chaduvu’ authored by Kodavatigante Kutumba Rao and ‘Swami and Friends’ by Shri.R.K.Narayan. ‘Swami and Friends’ was published in 1935 whereas ‘Chaduvu’ was published in 1952. In ‘Chaduvu’, Sundaram is the protagonist. In ‘Swami and Friends’, Swami is the protagonist. There are other similarities between the setting of ‘Swami and Friends’ and ‘Chaduvu’. Both the stories have been set in pre-independent India. Another common feature between ‘Chaduvu’ and ‘Swami and Friends’ is the flow of light hearted humour in the two books. The friendship between Sundaram and Nageswara Rao in ‘Sundaram Learns’ reminds one of the friendship between Swami and Rajam in ‘Swami and Friends’. Another book of R.K.Narayan, ‘Malgudi Days’ resonates strongly with ‘Chaduvu’. ‘Malgudi Days’ was published in 1942. Thus, there are many common features between ‘Swami and Friends’ and ‘Sundaram Learns’. Both the books address the issues of the challenges faced by a child growing up in pre-independent India. Many aspects of the Indian freedom struggle find a place in the novel.

The psychology behind the learning process, especially of the vernacular tongue in children has been covered. The experiences of life especially of the childhood of the protagonist have been beautifully showcased. The book has covered many aspects of the social life of the people. The book has also addressed the topic of untouchability. The book has discussed the topics of untouchability and remarriage, quite openly.

The brilliant translation of ‘Chaduvu’ into ‘Sundaram Learns’ by Dr. V.V.B Rama Rao will remain a literary treasure for one and all.


More by :  Dr. Padmapriya S

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