If Nirmal Vermaís fiction
captures the essence of the Indian upper middle class, Sahniís
does the same for the lower one. The best as well as the worst
of this class is portrayed in these stories. On the one hand,
there is love, compassion, the heroic struggle for existence and
the capacity to dream, but on the other there is selfishness,
dogmatism and insensitivity.
representative story of them all, and arguably the best, is Dinner
for the Boss (Chief Ki Davat). Career-conscious Shyamnath
invites his boss to dinner. To ensure the partyís success, he
tries hard to remove an "obstacle" ó his old mother.
However, seeing that the boss has been impressed by her,
Shyamnath, feigning affection, turns to her for the sake of his
promotion. And the mother, in spite of the humiliation she has
suffered at her sonís hands, agrees to do the needful for his
understanding of loss and displacement comes across poignantly
in his Partition stories. In Paali, a four-year-old boy
gets separated from his Hindu parents and is adopted by a
childless Muslim couple. He is forced to undergo circumcision by
fanatical members of the Muslim community and rechristened Altaf.
Just when the boy seems to have settled down in his new avatar,
his father arrives and takes him to India, where again fanatics
ó this time Hindu ó play havoc with his identity. In Veero,
a Sikh woman taken by a Muslim man is unable to forget her
past and looks for her brother, year after year, among the
pilgrims coming from India.
stories, by and large, manage to capture the spirit of the
originals. However, if one goes into the niceties, the
translations at times seem awkward and weak. For instance, in Mata-Vimata
(Mother or Stepmother), a woman resisting another's attempt
to grab a baby from her lap shouts: "Chhod, tujhe maut
khaye, chhod, gaadi chhoot rahi hai..." Its translation
ó "Let me be, may death eat you, let me alone, the
train's leaving..."ó lacks the originalís intensity. In
the same story, certain expletives are translated while others
are not. It sounds pretty odd, hearing a woman now say
"butcher, whore", now "haramzadi, naspitti".
Moreover, the idioms lose their impact, even seem funny, by
being translated literally. Take this: "There is delay in
Godís house, but never darkness!"
the reader most are the glaring proof reading and editing
mistakes. Right on page No.1, a woman is wearing a
"dressing down". In another place, a girl "new
the dialogues of several films by heart." Such silly
mistakes wonít do Penguinís reputation any good.
its absence is a glossary, which is a necessity here since
several words are left untranslated. The years in which the
stories were first published have also not been mentioned. Above
all, it would have been great had the Hindi originals been
provided in the book, as done recently by Indialog while
bringing out an anthology of Nirmal Vermaís stories in
Warts and all, these
translations are a decent read. Letís hope they lead readers
to the appreciation of the original stories.