Kurinjithen, literally honey of the kurinji flower, is a timeless poem in prose that transports you to the lush Nilgiris where this beautiful blue flower grows wild and to the land of the Badagas who inhabit these hills. It is also Rajam Krishnan’s eulogy to a vanished world and way of life.
Once in twelve years when the kurinji blooms in these hills, bees store the honey of the kurinji in combs in rock crevices and on branches of trees. When the Kurinji Blooms narrates the family saga of three generations of Badagas who have for long remained untouched by modernity. Then, as the winds of commerce and change invade their tranquil and sheltered lives, innocence and harmony are replaced by conflict and tragedy that herald new beginnings. The struggles and emotional turmoil of a close-knit people who live close to nature and their transition from a traditional way of life towards modernity are chronicled using the motif of the kurinji, which symbolises the passage of time.
A poignant and compelling portrait of a unique community set against the breathtaking beauty of the Nilgiris, Krishnan captures the essence of the landscape and its people in vibrant and photographic detail, immersing us in the lifeworld of the Badagas, their culture and customs, their loves and fears, their hopes and aspirations, even as they negotiate change.
Uma Narayanan and Prema Seetharam’s masterful and sensitive translation of the acclaimed novel brings alive the many charms and rhythms of Badaga life, inviting us to rediscover the enduring magic of Krishnan’s writing and the blue kurinji.
Rajam Krishnan (1925–2014) was born in Musiri, Tamil Nadu. She wrote her first novel Swatantra Jothi in 1948. A prolific and versatile writer, her work spans several genres, including fiction, plays, essays, biographies, short stories and travelogue. Her writing is bold but lyrical and her feminist perspective and socialist ideology are tempered by her deep humanism. Her extensively researched stories are peopled by those who rarely find a place in modern Tamil literature: adivasis, destitute landless farmers, women labourers, salt-pan workers, petty criminals and under-trial prisoners. She has won national and global recognition for her writings, including the Sahitya Akademi Award (1973) for her novel Verukku Neer (Water for the Roots) and the Soviet Land Nehru Award (1975) for Vailaikkaram (Wrist with Bangles). Her works have been extensively translated into other Indian languages and also nationalised by the Government of Tamil Nadu.
Uma Narayanan (1940) was born in Bangalore and holds degrees in Home Science, French and German. Her works in translation from Tamil include Tyagu by Sivasankari, Rajam Krishnan's novel Lamps in the Whirlpool, Ambai’s (C. S. Lakshmi) novellas and short stories by other writers, in collaboration with Prema Seetharam. The librarian at the Alliance Française in Chennai for years, she is the founder of SOS Children’s Villages India, Chennai, and balances her passion for translation with her dedication to child welfare.
Prema Seetharam (1940) was born in Chennai and holds degrees in Chemistry, History, Library Science and French. She has translated from French Le Temps d'un Royaume: Jeanne Dupleix, 1706–1756 by Rose Vincent, with Uma Narayanan. Her translations from Tamil, with Uma Narayanan, include Rajam Krishnan’s Lamps in the Whirlpool and When the Kurinji Blooms, and Two Novellas and a Story by Ambai. She has also worked extensively with the blind and established Braille and audio libraries for them.
When the Kurinji Blooms