“ ‘Why can’t you be a dutiful son like Rama?’ – here is one common reference to mythology in everyday life that many, many Indians have heard in their childhood.” Paula Richman, acclaimed specialist of the Indian epics, joined LILA once again for a Special Lecture, searching, this time, for the contemporary insights ancient narratives can offer us. “Epics touch us, but too often they do in the form of two extremes: either we want to follow them literally, or we deny them altogether since they are ‘from another time’.” The tension is inherent from the very nature of epics: those stories narrate the lives of archetypes, ideal kings, ideal queens, etc., setting the bar high, indicating the path to an ideal life… but epics also contain very concrete and easily applicable messages, lessons that can help any individual in the small and big questions of life – millennia ago, just as today. Paula Richman’s presentation highlighted a few of these.
Puppetry, a paradigm of continuity. Why? Opening the PRISM Lecture Series 2014 on Cultural Continuum with Malaysian cultural conservationist Eddin Khoo was a hint at the ambitious spatial and temporal scope of the debate. South East Asia is a cultural crossroad, echoing the multiplicity inherent in Indian traditions, and, in fact, often genealogically related to them. But, the spread of Sanskrit as the lingua franca of literature and the arts around the turn of the first millennium, or the simultaneous spread of Hinduism and Buddhism, should not reduce the region to a mere offspring of Indian cultures. What makes South East Asian culture, then? What is Malaysian culture? Eddin Khoo recalls the interrogation he offers to initiate with his students. “What is the Malay identity?” The only available answers are constitutional. Never cultural. A unified, common cultural history cannot easily be found. And it is precisely through culture, and through the multiplicity of cultures, that the concept of identity can be questioned. Through culture, the ubiquitous starting point of today’s political climates can be shaken.
It was heartening to see a full house in early evening in Delhi; people from all walks of life… From this event, we will definitely cherish and keep warmly in our memories the translators’ meet, with Anamika (Hindi), Roomy Naqvy (Gujarati), Rabiul Islam (Ahomiya), Himanjali Sankar (Bangla), Kaif Ali Taqvi (Urdu), along with Salma herself. Nivedita Kalarikkal, who did a sensitive Malayalam translation of Salma, unfortunately could not join us as she fell ill, but Satchin Joseph Koshy of LILA represented her. As the translators had to work on the basis of Rizio Yohannan Raj’s English translation, this was also a good chance for the translators to exchange notes, and observe the possibilities of translation among different Indian languages.