Problem of literary translations

WHILE reviewing O City of Light, a translation in English of Faiz’s ghazals and nazms by Daud Kamal and Khalid Hasan (Oxford), V.N. Datta has rightly observed (Spectrum, June 3) that “translation from one language into another is rather a tricky and complicated venture, especially when it comes to translation of Urdu into English, as both the languages have little cultural and linguistic affinity with each other”.

However formidable the task may be, we have to bear in mind that good translations have had always been the source of turning the direction of literature. For example, if there were no unique translations of the classic works of the Greek and Roman masters available, the rich and valuable literature of the Elizabethan period would not have come into being.

Coming to Faiz, (1912-1985), he always took an active part in the Progressive Writers’ movement, and drew inspiration from them to write some of his most beautiful and vigorous ghazals and nazms, and at the same time, like Josh, fashioned the literary thought trend for the Progressives. He raised his voice in support of free expression and peace.


Consequently, he was hauled up, along with Sajjad Zahir, in Rawalpindi consipiracy case, and spent several years in jail. He also spent several years in exile. His poems have a touch of classical sobriety and artistry. These are skilfully blended with modern incisiveness and ruthlessness of expression in exposing the turmoil and revolutionary urges of the time.


Foes of humanity

Khushwant Singh’s “In pursuit of a futile cause” (Saturday Extra, April 28), rightly castigates those elements in every religion that intend to play with the unity and integrity of the nation. Though himself a Sikh, the writer lambasts those who left no stone unturned to divide India through their nefarious designs by demanding Khalistan for the Sikhs.

People like Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan, Ganga Singh Dhillon and others of their ilk, who masquerade to be champions of their community, are in fact the real foes of humanity. They are, as the writer points out, “the worst enemies of the Panth and traitors to the country.”

Such notorious people exploit the religious sentiments of the innocent masses and instigate separatist tendencies among people. They misled people and are incapable of anticipating the consequences of their misdeeds. They failed to learn a lesson from one of the biggest blunders committed in 1947 when the country was partitioned on religious grounds leading to the worst catastrophe in the Indian sub-continent.

VINOD K. CHOPRA, Hamirpur (HP)

Belying history

For Khushwant Singh to say that Mahatma Gandhi had no role in India’s Partition (“Drama of Partition on Stage”, Saturday Extra, April 14) is to belie history. He had all along opposed the Partition. A month before the announcement of the Partition scheme on June 3, 1947, the Mahatma came to Lahore and declared that, if at all Pakistan came into being, it would be on his bones. Now everybody knows on whose bones Pakistan is built.

The second point is the mass migration of the Sikh peasantry from Pakistan. The very people who would shed their blood over an inch of land migrated to India, leaving behind rich agricultural lands. This remains unexplained, even though tomes have been produced on the Partition. n


Ustad Daman, doyen of Punjabi poetry

I SAW Ustad Daman in a Kavi Darbar in 1946 (Khushwant Singh’s “Daman’s epitaph”, Saturday Extra, June 2). He looked like a wrestler. He might not have indulged in wrestling bouts; but he was certainly Paihlawaan-e-sukhan (Doyen of Punjabi poetry). He couched verses in chaste Punjabi and loved this language.

He declared that he felt that those who asked him not to talk of Punjabi say, “O son, abandon your mother” (Mainoon inj lagda loki aakhdey ney toon putra aapni maan chhad dey). Once in a Congress jalsah in Lahore, he recited a patriotic poem, which made a profound impact on Jawaharlal Nehru, who happened to be there. He called him Shaair-e-Azadi.

In a mushaairah in New Delhi, referring to the aftermath of the Partition he recited a very touching poem. On his line “Laali akhiyaan dee paee dasdi ey roey tusin vee o roey aseen vee aan”, tears welled up in the eyes of the audience.

Prime Minister Nehru asked him to become a denizen of Delhi. But he wanted to remain in Lahore even if he was incarcerated there. Quite often, because of his severe criticism of the powers that be he had to cool his heels in jail. During the military rule, his verse Pakistan diyaan maujaan hee maujaan/ chaaron paasey faujaan hee faujaan became a household saying.

He satirically remarked that people were so much terrified that even if someone wanted to say Insha allah (God willing) or Maasha-allah (May God preserve from evil eyes), “martial law” fell from his lips. He died in Lahore on December 3, 1984. Kya khoob aadmi tha khuda maghfirat karey (What a pleasant man he was! May God bless his soul).




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