Surge On Like a River

Posted on January 16, 2021


V Shyamala, founder of Suzhi Publications, has translated into English a collection of essays by popular Tamil orator Smt. Bharathy Bhaskar, published in Tamil as ‘Nee Nadhi Pola Odikkonduiru’.

She asked if I could do a review. I couldn’t, but I said I could put up an excerpt on the blog. Here it is. Do spread the word.

Surge On Like a River is the English translation of the Tamil book titled ‘Nee Nadhi Pola Odikondiru’, originally written by Bharathy Bhaskar, a Chemical Engineer and an MBA, who is a banker by profession. She is also a popular columnist and speaker, and a household name in Tamil homes, thanks to the debates and shows she has spoken in.

The essays are written in a simple, engaging style, and filled with profound insights. These nuggets of wisdom primarily draw from the author’s life experiences and her empathetic observations of the people and situations around her.

This English translation by V. Shyamala captures the lively nature of the original, bringing it to a wider audience with the idea that the readers who do not know Tamil should not miss out on the wonderful collection.

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Book Excerpt

Chapter 1: Home sweet home, pours love but just drizzles appreciation!

Saro is my friend since school days. One evening, when I ran into her at Mount Road in Chennai, deciding to prolong our happy reunion, we proceeded to the Spencer Plaza to catch up. There, we met my boss, an American.

He noticed me and said ‘Hi’. I responded in kind, and introduced my friend.

Immediately, he complimented Saro, saying, “Your dress is lovely.” She was wearing a magenta-coloured silk sari with a black border. The sole reason for this incident was that the sari was really beautiful, and Americans are usually generous with their compliments.

Even though quite some time had passed since we had met my boss, Saro was visibly uncomfortable. She was not her usual bubbly self, either.  Only after my continuous, repeated insistence and queries of “What happened, Saro?” did she reply.

“When your boss complimented me, I could not even say a simple thanks!”

“Yes. I noticed. You could have thanked him”

“The thing is, I have never been praised so I did not know how to respond…”

That night, it was a long time before I could fall asleep. Is there only ‘one’ Saro who has ‘never been praised?’ There are a thousand Saros, Kamalas ,Fatimas, and Stellas amongst us, who yearn for  appreciation.

Apparently, research shows that women’s chromosomal and genetic makeup craves appreciation and acknowledgment, more than men’s genetics do. Must probably be true.

“Darling… How does my new saree look?”

“Is it new… Superb!”

Did the husband even spare a glance at the saree, or did he say so as there was no other quicker way to end the conversation… God only knows!

“There is a difference in the rasam I made today… Did you not notice?”

“Really? For me it tastes the same, as usual.”

Following a new recipe suggested by a friend, boiling tomato and garlic along with lentils, mashing them all together, mixing with the tamarind extract, boiling it evenly before adding freshly crushed cumin and black pepper, and finally tempering with mustard seeds spluttered in ghee… all this effort only to hear ‘it tastes same as usual!’

A new hairstyle from a rare visit to a beauty parlour, a tastefully drawn peacock kolam, a special adai-avial tiffin made after poring over a different recipe from a book, a newly purchased green silk-cotton saree that had attracted at first sight, a reward gotten at the office… would any of this give us complete happiness, if not layered with praise from close family members?

Could the researchers who proved that ‘women’s chromosomes expect praise and appreciation’, not have also proven that ‘men’s chromosomes limit their ability to give out praise and compliments’?


Nee NadhiPolaOdikonduiru’- The original Tamil title of this book which literally translates into –“Keep flowing like a river”

Saree: Long, unstitched women’s garment, usually 15 to 20 feet in length, typically worn around the waist with one end draped over the shoulder. In the modern Indian subcontinent, the saree is considered a cultural icon.

Rasam: A watery, savoury soup; very popular in South India.

Kolam (~Rangoli): A form of drawing usually made in front of the houses, traditionally drawn every day using coarsely ground rice flour; A conscious offering to miniscule creatures like ants, and very popular in Tamil Nadu.

Adai-Avial: A favoured vegetarian food combination. Adai is a spicy, think crepe made from a batter of soaked rice, lentils, coconut, and chillies. Avial is a gravy made of boiled countryside vegetables, garnished with a paste made of ground coconut, cumin, green chillies, and sour curd.

Ma-kolam: A special type of kolam, drawn using a smooth, watery rice paste, usually done elaborately on special occasions.

Sridevi-  is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential actresses in the history of Indian cinema

Bharathi (~Bharathiyar / Mahakavi):SubramaniaBharathi, a celebrated Tamil poet, freedom fighter known for his inspiring Tamil verses ranging from patriotic to romantic.

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