This Above all
Joyce and Tagore
KHUSHWANT SINGH

By strange coincidence, James Joyce, in his famous novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, wrote a few lines which Gurudev Tagore did in his poem Ekla Chalo, and perhaps about the same time. They run as follows: "Look here, Cranly, he said, you have asked me what I would do, and what I would not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church; and I will try to express myself in the same mode of life or art as freely as I can, asking for my defence the only arms I allow myself to use ó silence, exile and cunning."

Cranly seized his arm and stared at him around so as to lead him back towards Leeson Park. He laughed almost slyly, and pressed Stephanís arm with an elderís affection. "Cunning, indeed!" he said; "you, poor poet, you!" "And you made me confess to you,"Stephan said, thrilled by his touch, "as I have confessed to you so many things, have I not?" "Yes, my child", Cranly said, still gently. "You made me confess the fears that I have. But I will tell you what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone, to be spurned for another, or to leave whatever I have to leave. And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a big mistake, a life-long mistake, and perhaps as long as eternity, too."

James Joyce, in his novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, wrote a few lines which
James Joyce, in his novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, wrote a few lines which Tagore did in his poem, Ekla Chalo

Attempt at translation

I was rummaging through old notebooks and scraps of papers I had preserved when I came across my first attempt to translate Urdu poetry into English. It was with the help of Manzur Qadir, my closest friend during my seven years in Lahore (1940-47). We happened to be travelling from Southampton to Karachi and Bombay. Most of the passengers were either Pakistanis or Indians. Manzur and I spent our days on the deck.

He took out his favourite verses from Diwan of Allama Iqbal, and explained what they meant. I chose one to try my hand at translating it, and showed it to Manzur to check for accuracy:

To the Creator did beauty one day complain;
Why made Ye of stuff what doth wane?
"The world is like a hall of mirrors", answered He;
A tale told to pass the long night of eternity;
Since of changeable hues we are made;
It is essence of beauty that it must fade;
The moon overheard,
she was not far;
It spread in the skies to the morning star;
The star told the dawn;
The dawn to the
dew extended;
The secret of heavens, thus to the earth descended;
Tears filled the eyes of
the flower;
On hearing what he had said;
The budís little heart burst with grief and bled;
Grief fled the garden in
loud lament;
Youth that had come to sport;
In sorrow went.

Ramblings

We have controlled
population growth;
And checked the price rise;
Which are now touching
the lower skies;
Amit Shah is innocent, and
his very look shows;
That he cannot kill a
couple of flies;
Parliament functions
normally;
And away from all
business shies;
Ms Mamata Banerjee is a great Railway Minister;
Who from the maidan in Kolkata cries;
"You the people of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai;
Very safe in my hands
your life lies;
But let me first, with some
help from Naxalites;
To the chief ministership of Bengal rise;"
Bhishm Pitamah of the
country K. Karunanidhi;
Will see to it before he dies;
That for seven generations
in his family
Every child a ministerís
chair occupies;
And true to the maxim that there is lull before the storm; Rather dormant behan Mayawati lies;
So I can say on oath that in political morality;
And service to the people;
Our netas have touched the point of highest growth.

 

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)



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