When North Indian political leaders arrive in Kerala to make public speeches, especially during elections, they often struggle with the correct, literal translation of their words. While English speeches largely go error-free, the ones in Hindi go dangerously off the track, resulting in guffaws and bloopers.
However, if there’s one translator in Kerala whose work is making waves across the state, it is 39-year-old Jyothi Vijayakumar, a lawyer and a sociology professor at a civil service academy in Thiruvananthapuram. Jyothi is also the daughter of D Vijayakumar, a Congress leader who finished second in a bye-election in Chengannur constituency last year.
Jyothi’s persuasive and razor-sharp Malayalam translation of the English speech of Congress President Rahul Gandhi in Pathanapuram on Tuesday has made many people sit up and take notice. Her words, authoritative and booming, were greeted with wide applause from the audience. With her translation going viral, she was asked to do the job once again at one of Gandhi’s speeches today in Wayanad, from where he’s fighting elections this time alongside Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
“I constantly watch Rahul Gandhi’s speeches. I have imbibed a lot of things from him, both political and personal. That’s part of my mental space, what he says and his ideas….I like watching and listening to him. Like listening to music, I listen to his speeches,” she said.
She believes anyone with a neat command of the English language can translate Gandhi’s speeches as he does not engage in excessive rhetoric or jargon.
“He has clear, precise tactical solutions. He’s a professional. He means what he says. There’s not so much of rhetoric. As an individual, he’s forthright and straight-forward,” she added.
After his speech in Thiruvambady on Wednesday, Gandhi complimented Jyothi’s work and said he liked her translation very much.
Aside from understanding the language and knowing what words to use, she adds that logistical support like audio is extremely crucial for a translator. You may stand close to the speaker, but still you may not hear anything, she said.
Even though she had campaigned for her father in the bye-election last year, she says she has not been actively engaged in politics. But now that’s changing, she underlines. She is a part of the core social media team of the state Congress and would like to work closely with the party.