‘Problems’ I faced while ‘Translating’

I translate. I study ‘Translation’. Yes, I’m a student of ‘Translation Studies’. I have been one ever since it was explained to me in 2008 that Translation wasn’t merely an affair that happens between two languages. In 2009, I officially became a student of Translation Studies and have been working on topics related to it. It has been five glorious years of working in a department dominated by people pretending to do works on Linguistics. They also pretend to understand ‘Translation’ more than us. I have seen one of them running away from one of our reading-group meetings, with his tail burning behind him.

giphy6In the department meetings where we discuss our work (and pretend to understand them!) there’s a common question that is thrown at us, the students of Translation Studies.

“What were the problems you faced while translation this work?”

From the year I stepped into this place, I have been wondering about this question. It seemed to be coming from every single teacher I faced. What problems? Why does it have to be problems? Why can’t it be something interesting? No! It has to be ‘praablems’!

200So, years of research on the discipline of Translation Studies by people like Mona Baker, Walter Benjamin, Susan Bassnett, Edwin Gentzler, Robinson Douglas, George Steiner, Lawrence Venuti etc. are reduced to this one stupid question!

‘Tell us about the Praablems you faced while translating!’

This is How I respond when I hear that Question
This is How I respond when I hear that Question

So, there I was. Presenting a paper on my thesis-in-progress! A silverback of the department decided to throw that question at me.

‘Manu, where’s Translation in it?’

‘Sir, my third chapter is fully dedicated to ‘Translation’.’ I said.

‘Have you Translated anything?’

‘I’m in the middle of that process, Sir.’

(No Manu, you can’t grind your teeth when you’re addressing a senior professor!)

‘Then, tell us about the praablems you face while translating….’

(Oh, No! You didn’t….)

These are the times when I black out and the other guy kicks in.

Oh! You Really Want ME to be ME!!!
Oh! You Really Want ME to be ME!!!

The thing is, I have heard this question more than enough and I have an answer for them. While I was translating a short story for our journal Kalpana, I faced quite a few problems. I would like to share them here with those who are so concerned about the ‘problems while translating.’

Since we were so engrossed into the project of a seminar and a journal, my usual punctuality was at stake and it started affecting my stomach. By the time I translated a page of the short story, I was suffering from serious constipation. This was the first problem I encountered. Once I was half way through the translation, I decided to go ahead and consult a doctor. While swiping my card at the pharmacy, I managed to tear it a bit, which made the card invalid in most ATMs. This problem made me penniless for a while. Also, I could not buy medicines for my constipation, you know…. And….

And... this is what I am going to do with people who asks such questions...
And… this is what I am going to do with people who asks such questions…


Surname Distortions


I know surnames are purely regional. It identifies your ancestry, family history, caste, social position and forms a major part of your identity. My surname (Kurup) has done a lot of good things as well as damages to me, over the period of time. My father bears that surname. So did his grandfather. Incidentally, my grandfather (maternal) bears that name too and so does his father and his father before that. I’m a 9th generation Kurup from two families. My mother often fondly says that I bear traits of two Kurup families. Maybe true. Maybe it’s a bad thing, but actually who gives a damn?

Keeping surnames attached to first names had almost gone out of fashion when I had joined school. Manu S Kurup; as a child, I didn’t know what ‘Kurup’ meant. When the rest of my mates stylized their fathers’ names and kept them as a funky tail to their own names, I was carrying around a surname that didn’t mean anything to me.

‘What is it?’ I whined at my Mom, one afternoon.

‘It is your name.’ She said.

‘I don’t like it.’ I whined again.

‘Your father has it. Your grandfathers do. Their fathers do. Your son will have it.’ She poured more soup into my mouth.

‘I don’t want a son. I don’t want this name.’ I didn’t know which was more terrible; having this surname or having a son.

Tom-HiddlestonI knew little about caste, then. If you are not from India, my dear reader, let me tell you that Caste is a big thing among illiterates and nincompoops in India. The rest of the India (Mind you, that’s a very small minority!) don’t give a damn. There is a third category. People who are milking ‘caste issues’ like a cow and feed off that milk so that they’ll get some mileage from it. In academics, I know people who are born in supposedly lower castes, and howls for caste equality and at the same time turns heaven and earth to avail every single penny that the government provides to people belonging to ‘weaker’ castes. It’s like a female asking for equality but fights for a separate queue for women! How absurd.

SnapeLet’s come back to my issue. I don’t care about the caste remarks that have been made about my surname. I have heard people saying that I carry this surname to flaunt my upper caste identity. I heard it very recently too, which is why I’m writing this. I have never had any benefits from anywhere with this surname. On the other hand, this world is filled with people who can’t spell/pronounce/write it properly.

The FedEx/Gati deliverymen has the habit of changing K-U-R-U-P in to K-A-P-O-O-R. Leonardo-Dicaprio

I understand that the sounds are the same but I’m sure the sequence in which it is uttered is different. Also, I seriously have no interest in being branded into the family of some dumbass movie stars.

Cab on Click has my surname as ‘DURUM’. Even after repeated attempts at changing it, the people who work for this ridiculous cab company are unable to correct it. On every booking I do, I urge/request/plead/order them to change it, But when they send the confirmation message to the phone, I read that ludicrous distortion of my surname; D-U-R-U-M!!! What in Gods’ name is that??? Puck

I was so angry the last time I saw this that I called back and cancelled my booking. To add fire to that, their area manager called me back to inquire about the ‘praablem’ and he was so dumb that I abused his entire clan. Even after thinking about it a lot, I just don’t understand how spelling out a name as KURUP can end up as DURUM!

Then comes restaurants, hotels, malls and retail stores. When I say my surname, they write it down as GURU. As much as I’d love to be a wicked guru to people in several things, I don’t particularly enjoy seeing that attached to the name my parents gave me. Vlogger

There was even a time a manager of a hotel addressed me as Mr. Guru on my way out of their establishment. I turned back and told him in a very civilized manner that I hate people doing jobs that they are so totally not qualified for. He asked me what I meant by it. I just smiled.


P.S: These days I just say my Dad’s name as my surname. I surrender.

It’s India… not Hindia!

The Narendra Modi government’s recent hustle with Tamil Nadu government over the supposed imposition of Hindi language is something that had been raising concerns in social media. Under these circumstances, when debates are doing the rounds, about India and its languages, I’d like to ask a question. Do Indians need to speak one language to understand one another?

We have been one nation for over sixty years with multiple languages spoken across several states; languages belonging to different families – Dravidian, Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman…
And, English, the colonizer’s language serves as the second official language. Most of the urban class is able to speak English, in varying fluency levels. Why can’t we just go on like we did for the past six decades?


My next question is quite simple and is aroused out of mere curiosity. Why Hindi? I have been looking everywhere for some valid reason to believe that Hindi can be that one language that is needed to bring the nation into some sort of convoluted togetherness. No one has been able to suggest a reason as to why Hindi is being chosen as the language the rest of the country should be learning. Is it linguistically better than other languages? Does it possess some distinct cultural traits that change the social status of the speaker? Or is it because it is believed to be spoken by the heartland of India? Newspaper articles and television debates fail to answer any of those questions that I have in mind.

Some people have a problem with me when I say that Hindi, as a language was imposed on me. I have never really realised why I should learn Hindi. It was forced on me when I was halfway through my schooling. One fine morning in the beginning of a school year demanded that I learn Hindi; along with Malayalam (my mother tongue) and English (the medium in which everything was taught). I felt stupid. More than that I felt angry. I was made to read and write a language that I had nothing to do with; a language that was of no use to me. At the end of that five year forced-learning of that language, I was able to read and write Hindi better than more than half of the native speakers of it. But when it comes to speaking, I would prefer acting like a dumb person.

When the Hyderabad stage of my life started, I was expected to pick up Hindi. With so many speakers of Hindi around, I was sure I will learn it. But my own stubbornness and the stubbornness of the Hindi-speakers to expect everyone else to speak Hindi, made me ignore it. All the girlfriends I have (had) were excellent speakers of Hindi and even that factor did not make it any important to me.

Some say Hindi is an easy language to learn. Is it? What if I argue that Tamil/Malayalam can be learned easily too. Why not try and teach some North Indians a bit of Tamil or Telugu? Why not put some young Hindi speaking kids through the ordeal of learning Malayalam letters, starting from their fifth standard? How about a including an option between Kannada and Telugu in North Indian curriculum?

Does learning Hindi makes me a better Indian? The idea of India itself is of a region where several cultures and languages cohabitate. Just because less that 10% of Hindi-speaking politicians had a loose motion does not mean that India and its non-Hindi speakers should ready their toilets. Native speakers of Hindi can continue to speak their language and keep on expecting others to speak it. People like me don’t give a damn.


…and I’m not a Terrorist

‘Where are you going?’ The Policeman asked, his eyebrows raised in suspicion.

‘Hyderabad’. I said.

‘Ooookay!’ To him that seems like a solid evidence to confirm my identity as a terrorist. His eyes scanned me.

A short beard! (Apparently, all terrorists have that!) No mustache. Short and well built. A potbelly. (From eating too much Biryani and Kebab, probably.) An unnecessary sarcastic smile. (That can be interpreted as a disdain towards authority/government, which is genuine, I should confess!)

His face expressions confirmed my biggest fear; that I’m officially a terrorist now.


Trivandrum International Airport. I was getting done with my security check when the guards found a pocket knife in my bag. It had always been a part of my luggage as I travel to a lot of places. It resembles the knife that John Rambo uses, though not as vicious-looking. Also, it has not been used for harming any human; only apples and bananas. But, that is something I can’t tell the policeman. The knife also has multiple features like a mini torch and a bottle opener. I’m pretty sure John Rambo’s knife didn’t have any of that.


The policeman went to another one sitting on a chair, eyeing the scanner machine that luggage went through. They discussed something. The policeman in the chair leaned and looked at me. I smiled. He didn’t smile back. A policewoman, lean and good-looking, joined their private conversation. She also leaned sideways to take a look at me. I smiled. She didn’t fall for it. My bag was lifted up mercilessly to the roller and scanned again. It came through the machine but was mechanically rolled back immediately to scan again. Their eyes narrowed and all three of them looked at me at the same time. I didn’t smile. The policeman who was seated on the chair, stood up and stretched. His right hand carelessly caressed the butt of the pistol on his hip. He walked slowly towards me and stood, his hands folded across his chest.

‘You have a knife… I should say… a hunting knife, in your bag.’

‘Yes.’ I agreed, having nothing else to say.

‘On a second check, we found out that you have another weapon carefully concealed in a kit inside your bag.’

‘What is it?’ I asked. I was beginning to think that there must be something else at play here.

‘Please… open your bag.’ He said, grumpily, sliding my bag onto the table. I opened it.

‘Please take out that kit and produce the weapon.’ The police officer said.

I opened my shaving kit and produced my 45 Rupee Scissors and placed it carefully on the table, fearing it’d explode. The police officer looked at me.

‘Don’t you know that trying to get weapons inside an airport is a criminal offense?’

‘I know. I use that weapon twice a week to shave my face.’ I said.

‘What about that hunting knife? Do you use that too on your face?’ He was sarcastic.

‘No. That’s not for MY face.’


‘Um… sorry. That’s not for anyone’s face. It is just that I did not know it was there. You can take it if you want. It is just a cheap knife despite its looks.’

The Police officer eyed the knife and then looked at me.

‘Okay. Leave your knife and your scissors here. You can go.’

I breathed hard and took my bag.

When I was crossing into the waiting area, I looked back. The Police officer was trying to open the knife. The spring was getting a little rusty and I hope it didn’t cut off any of his fingers.

Do you really want me to tell them your story, Mr. Kurup?
Do you really want me to tell them your story, Mr. Kurup?




P.S: In case I was arrested and put in a jail for trying to hijack a domestic flight, I was planning to write my story from there and having it made into a film. If that’s the case, as I was telling Erica, I was planning to get Morgan Freeman to narrate my story. Do you think that’s a good idea?

End of ‘Season’ing: ‘Lecter’ianism!


Sometimes the best way of letting your mind lose is to cook. Engage yourself in making something good (if at all it turns out to be good!) is a very good therapy. In my present state of mind, it is exactly something I need. Piling up work and nonsense around can make anyone a psychopath. Actually, in my understanding, there isn’t much of a distance between a sociopath to a psychopath. Don’t get me wrong. This post was supposed to be in celebration of finishing the second season of Hannibal.

imagesThe second season was much more thrilling than the first. Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy and Laurence Fishburne… I agree with the critic who said female characters did not have much to do in the second season. The whole story and the powerful narrative revolved between Dr. Lecter, Will Graham and Agent Jack Crawford. More than the storyline, which I am thoroughly interested in, what attracted me was an increase in the number of scenes where Hannibal Lecter cooked. A known culinarian, Hannibal Lecter’s character was made to concentrate on Japanese food. In fact, each episode was named after a Japanese dish.



It actually made me feel like I should cook something. It had been a long time. And, I did.


P.S: Don’t ask me what the meat is. If I tell you, you wouldn’t even try it.



Duck Farmers


The duck-farmers. They are a common sight in my part of Kerala. During my regular visits to my grandmother’s ancestral home, I used to wonder at the countless number of ducklings being managed by one single person with a stick. Our car used to be often stopped by this army of ducks on the road. They’d pass us ‘quack-quack-quacking’, rubbing each other, followed by a human commander, forcing some of the wanderers back in to the group with his long wooden stick. The caretakers are very careful with the ducks. They gently touch them with the edge of the stick, which is often padded with a cloth, and tuck them back into the army. It is a majestic sight.

Kuttanad, famed as the ‘Venice of the East’ with its scenic villages and green canals carefully interwoven in to them, is where my mother hails from. Although we visit her moody uncle not too often, the job of driving my grandmother back to her people often falls on my shoulder. Refusing to adapt to the modern world knocking on her door, Kuttanad still has shady country roads with its brown gravel and coconut groves bordering on canals. Less than four years ago, a bridge was inaugurated connecting Thakazhi (Grandmother’s village) to the rest of the world. It gave me relief from a long-term worry; the Ferry, that we had to take during our earlier visits.

The ferry was a strange formation of two big wooden boats with a heavy wooden shield nailed on top. This thing was then connected to a boat with a diesel engine. Vehicles were loaded on to the wooden platform to be crossed over to the other side of the river. The very first time I had to drive a car on to this thing was when I was 17. I was terrified beyond imagination but I managed to do it at the first chance.

Coming back to the Duck Farmers of Kuttanad… My father once stated that there were three jobs that he had much respect for; Nursery Teachers, Traffic Police and Duck Farmers… because all three of these jobs required unlimited patience. The duck farmers have to take care of these birds from the moment they come out of the eggs! They have to feed them, adapt them to the environment, and go around with them through land and lake, alike… Driving through the magnificent Alappuzha – Changanacherry Road, one can see vast armadas of duck(ling)s on the lakes on both sides, managed by a single farmer, balancing himself on a small fibre boat.

Yes, it is true that some of these ducks end up in a plate of curry or a semi dry gravy of onion and chilli, nourishing your taste buds like anything. For me, that itself is the highest reward for a duck farmer’s patient job. :P

- Manu

P.S: The above given photograph was taken during my recent visit to Kuttanad, along with some friends. More photographs of the visit can be seen in my Facebook album.


So, the updates. India has a new Prime Minister. Narendra Modi of the BJP. I’m neutral about Modi being the PM. I neither support his party nor the other. As I have mentioned earlier in a post, I’m confused about whom to choose. This election had Prime Ministerial candidates chosen well before. Modi for NDA and Rahul Gandhi for UPA. The people of India felt it safe to hand over the power to a normal Indian citizen.. a common man… than to someone who had seen nothing out of his family property (New Delhi and Amethi).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Even I think Modi is far better a person for the job than Rahul Gandhi. My dislike for Rahul Gandhi come not only from his own pathetic attempts to show himself as a national leader but also from the way his followers talk about him. Sometimes, you can dislike a person just by looking at his/her sycophants!

Anyway, NDA decimated UPA and enjoy a good majority in the Parliament. In 10 years, we heard the PM of India talking! No… I don’t dislike Manmohan Singh. He did what he could as the Prime Minister of India. In fact, he did better than any tongue-tied academician turned bureaucrat placed in a power position can do!

The questions that any sane Indian would ask is what would Modi do now? How would his governance be? Is he going to give a free reign to RSS and its leash dogs? Is India and its multi-culturalism going to be threatened by the VHP and its mindless idiots? I had been closely reading up on Modi and his governance in Gujarat, the western state in which he had been the Chief Minister for four consecutive terms. From what I understand of the electoral choices of Gujarat, the minorities there could have easily voted him out of power had they not wanted him there. Instead, they chose Modi again and again. That says something about him and his governance. Although the Supreme Court of India gave him a clean chit about the Godhra incident and all, the clear verdict has to come from the people of this Country. Electing him as the PM is a chance the people of India gave him. Modi should have the sense to understand that and serve the country accordingly. I hope he doesn’t give the Sangh Parivar any chance to unleash their illiterate hooligans on us.

Anyway, it is nice to see a difference in the Capital. I would have liked it if Sushma Swaraj had been given the Defence Ministry. Arun Jaitley seems to be crowded with portfolios. Rajnath Singh has the same tendency as Kapil Sibal to say things that do not go down well with the majority. I really do not know how he can keep the Home Ministry without creating a shitstorm.

I wish the new government all the best in giving my fellow citizens a feeling that we did the ‘right’ thing by giving them a chance.

P.S: By now, I hope Rahul Gandhi has understood the fact that India is a Democracy where the people ‘elect’ their representatives through a proper voting system and not a Kingdom where he could be just placed on a throne because his father and his grandmother chose to think so. :P

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