Unexpected Pulp Fiction ...

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August 8th 2008
Published: August 9th 2008
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The search for the elusive yoga mat took me to Landmark one Friday afternoon. Weeks of exercise deprivation was beginning to take its toll on me. I felt fidgety, cranky and ... fat. My body craved the familiarity of Patanjali yoga asanas and I needed a yoga mat. I went to The Forum and entered Landmark. I made my way to the 'Urban Yoga' section and saw that the supply of yoga mats had dwindled down to about three. Landmark stocks mats from 'Urban Yoga' and a local brand. After inspecting the material and quality I decided that the only difference between the two was the price and the brand. I spotted a salesman and asked him if I could get a mat along with its carry bag. My heart sank in disappointment as he told me that those were out of stock and would come in only next week. A fate devoid of exercise seemed unavoidable.

Dejected, I ambled to the ground floor and noticed that people were starting to gather around a make-shift stage put up between the bookshelves. I walked up to the crowd and found out that a book reading for 'Tamil Pulp Fiction' was about to start. Blaft Publications had come out with a collection of short stories translated into English from the original Tamil. A boy sitting next to me was carrying a copy of the book and I took it from him to skim through the pages. There were stories from writers who I had never heard about, and understandably so. They were writers of Tamil pulp fiction and largely unknown to the English-reading population. This was regional literature made accessible to foreigners. It was bold, brash, trashy, garish, vulgar ... and deliciously 'local'. In short, just the kind of literature I had been looking for. The translators took about twenty minutes to read out excerpts from the book and then there was an interesting Q&A session. Listening to the authors talk about their fascination with regional pulp fiction and seeing their dedication to the cause of making that literature accessible to people on a larger scale, made me wonder about the kind of audience the writers had in mind when they undertook this project. They spoke of how they felt readers who were unable to read Tamil or who were not aware of such literature were missing out on really good stuff. They spoke about how this literature was looked down upon and even shunned at one point in time. However, as kids they managed to find their source for this literature (such as the school-bus drivers), but they want that people today can access this literature more easily. To my question about the audience they had in mind and the methodology they used when compiling this anthology, they did not specify an audience, only that they wanted to spread the awareness. No methodology was applied in the selection of the different stories. However, they did consider the ease and possibility of translation of the various stories.

As I sipped the orange drink that was served afterwards, I realized that though the search for the yoga mat continued, the search for some South Indian popular literature had accidentally ended.


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