Here’s a possible conversation that most of you may’ve had or soon will have with a Millennial kid, yours or otherwise, when they travel to someplace.
“Call me as soon as you reach there.”
“Ok.” Followed by a stare!
“Remember to keep the suitcase locked, whenever you leave the room.”
Cold stare! Just.
“I’ll miss you. Don’t forget to call me every day, in the morning and evening.”
“I know you will. But I want you to call me at least once a day.”
“OK! I’ll tweet you every hour. Is that fine?”
Now it is your turn to stare. In utter disbelief! Whatever happened to the art of conversation? How can a tweet (assuming you know what it is) convey the emotion of a conversation between a parent and child?
Twitter is a 6 year-old phenomenon, which has already made texting (aka sending SMS) look ancient. For today’s youth, texting or tweeting is the same as chatting. No, it is chatting. Soon, that’ll be the only way they chat. Oh, they don’t ‘talk’ btw. Only chat!
I took to Twitter when I started exploring Social Media seriously over an year ago. Twitter to me symbolizes the most controlled freedom. Whoever you may be – Bronco Bamma inclusive (Congratulations Mr. President) – you’ve to communicate with only 140 characters. I loved the challenge as it helped me chisel my SwamyVerse quotes, blog post promos and IPL comments. The beauty of brevity is equally amusing and amazing!
But tweets are way older than that. In fact, more than 2000 years old. Incredible but true. And the person who tweeted that long ago was a poet who is said to have lived in Chennai’s cultural melting pot of Mylapore. His epic is one of the most interpreted and translated Tamizh literature of all time.
Thiruvalluvar’s (which many scholars don’t think is his real name btw) திருக்குறள் (Thirukkural) is the epitome of intense intellectual ability expressed in absolute brevity, showcasing his amazing command of my beloved mother tongue and astounding knowledge of Life in its myriad forms and shapes. And he didn’t tweet just a few.
Thirukkural has 1330 couplets in all, neatly organized into 3 categories – Aram (Code of Life), Porul (Living Life) and Inbam (Loving Life) – and 133 chapters. Each couplet is just two lines long, comprising only 7 words. Valluvar tweeted on anything and everything Life, including but not limited to God, Love, Rule, Knowledge, Leadership, Management, Ethics, Purpose, Friendship, Power, Alcoholism, Agriculture, Eyes, Memory, Signs, Communication, Action and a lot many more.
Many a child recites Thirukkural in competitions (the other popular one being பாரதியார் கவிதைகள் – vibrant poems by nationalist poet Subramanya Bharathi) and win prizes even today. When yours truly did, Sedapatti Muthiah was the speaker of Tamilnadu State Assembly. I know it simply because he’s the one who gave away the prize to me in the world famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple.
Kural’s fascination got relegated into the archival zone of Swamy’s brain, post school days and got rekindled only when I picked up Sujatha’s (IMHO, one of the most versatile writers ever to grace mother Earth – was awestruck when I met him in person) interpretation of the epic, in a nondescript stall at Chennai Book Fair (an annual pilgrimage I make, 2-3 times within the 2 week period, in order to cover as many stalls as possible). Of course I never got to address my better half’s query “When are you planning to finish reading all these books?”
While a select few samples are shared in this post to give you a sense of how succinctly he tweeted over 2 Millennia ago, I intend to write a series of posts – possibly 133 or more – to share my joy of learning (howzat for the more industrial ‘understanding’), based on Sujatha’s interpretation primarily, with my avid and loyal blog readers. That’ll obviously happen over a period of time – could be months, if not years! And they’ll obviously be a compilation of 10 SwamyVerse tweets for each post. So, here goes the teaser to the SwamyVerse edition of the amazing Thirukkural for the Digital Natives and Immigrants. And poor Dinosaurs too!
I’ve used ‘Google Transliterate’ for typing in தமிழ். For pronunciation in English, you may use the same (the time tested C+P technology will come handy) or the translate option in MS Word or any other word processor that you use.
Let’s start with a famous one that was more famous for its rhyme. With Nilam and Sandy battering people on either side of the Atlantic recently (when I called it the dance of mother nature, all I got were cold stares), Kural 15 - Chapter 2 (K15C2 for easy reference) aptly captures our mood during monsoon.
துப்பார்க்கு துப்பாய துப்பாக்கித் துப்பார்க்குத்
துப்பாய தூஉம் மழை.
One can do farming with rain water. And drink it as well.
– a literal translation of Sujatha’s interpretation.
Rain water is useful for farming and drinking.
– seems even more brief and to the point.
With Deepavali (aka Diwali) purchases in full swing in many Indian families, here’s K51C6 for the poor male members of family who patiently wait in front of the garment stores or ponder the purpose of their lives leaning over the rails in one of the mega mall floors, for their spouses to complete (hopefully before Diwali day) their shopping.
மனைத்தக்க மான்புடையள் ஆகித்தற் கொண்டான்
வளத்தக்காள் வாழ்க்கைத் துணை.
A good wife represents family virtues and doesn’t spend unnecessarily!
A good wife is one who spends within means and represents family virtues.
Here are two apt ones for a memorable event that happened early today. My son Akash. PC. Iyer has left for Slovenia with the Indian team for competing in the World Youth (U16) Chess Championship (he along with the team won the Bronze medal in World Youth Chess Olympiad recently). K68C7 and K69C7 capture the mood in our family exactly.
தம்மின்தம் மக்கள் அறிவுடைமை மாநிலத்து
மன்னுயிர்க் கெல்லாம் இனிது.
Knowing that our children are more intelligent than us is happiness.
We’re happy when we know our children are wiser than us.
ஈன்ற பொழுதிற் பெரிதுவக்கும் தன்மகனைச்
சான்றோன் எனக்கேட்ட தாய்.
Knowing that her child is wise, a mother is happier than at the time of birth.
A mother is happier than at the time of birth when she knows that her child is wise.
Sujatha wished for someone like AK Ramanujan to write a better, easy to comprehend (and enjoy, needless to say) English version of Thirukkural – one that doesn’t miss the succinct core message by focusing on the literal aspect or poetical format instead. I’m an ardent fan of both Valluvar & Sujatha, but certainly don’t claim mastery in either language. So it's perfectly understandable and acceptable if I said "No, We Can't".
Then I remembered the message from a lean, bespectacled, simple looking man in loin cloth, "Be the change you want to see in the world." He actually did what he said and ascended to become the 'Father of the Nation'! The power of the Mahatma’s message nudged me to take the challenge head and do something about it!
So, I dare not only to start this joyful exploration (call it my humble tribute to a writer whose writing I and a million other fans continue to cherish – he easily outsells many other living authors in the Chennai book fair, even 4 long years after he attained ஆசார்யன் திருவடி), but am naturally inclined to go all the way. However long it takes. Hope you’re also equally excited about learning more about the mesmerizing ‘2000 year old Tweets’!