'Tika' or 'Vermillion' is the Question

At the Bangalore Literature Festival, authors were asked if they should be grateful to translators

Published: 08th December 2015 06:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th December 2015 06:08 AM   |  A+A-

Translations help those who otherwise might not be able to access a writer’s work, said Hindi writer Mridula Garg at Bangalore Literature Festival. “So we should all be grateful to those who translate our works.”

The Sahitya Akademi awardee was responding to a Bengali poet’s complaint about having to read English translations of his work to audiences outside of his home state.

tika.JPGSubodh Sarkar, who read out a translation of his poem at the festival as well, had also objected to being tagged a ‘Bhasha writer’ as opposed to an ‘English language writer’.

Though sessions dedicated to translation weren’t on schedule, discussions often veered to the topic during the panels on Bhasha and Hindi poetry, and also to preserving the cultural diversity that goes hand in hand with the many Indian regional languages.

City Express spoke to a couple of Bengaluru-based translators at the fest about their creative process and treading the line between fidelity to the original and readability in the ‘target’ language.

S Diwakar, who has introduced to Kannada readers the world of Marquez through his short stories, says over the past few decades, the priority, in general, has shifted to the former. He believes this is a superior method of translation.

“If a sentence by Kafka or Marqez runs 20 pages, who am I to break up the text into so many more sentences,” said the writer who was part of a panel on short stories. “Only what has been written by the author is the original. All translations are only versions.”

He strives to keep the original syntax. “I do a rough translation first – word for word – and then work with the Kannada version.”

Over the past couple of years, he has been working on translating The Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

“You need to love a work for you to be able to translate it well,” he said. And the form should be kept intact as well, so only another poet can translate poetry, he holds.

For Padmavathi Rao, at the event to participate in a discussion on Hindi poetry, it is a struggle of trying to capture the rhythm of the language of the original in the language it’s being translated into.

“If the writer has not used language as it’s normally used, it’s harder. Sometimes translation doesn’t work and I try transliteration,” she said. “If that doesn’t work, if you’re lucky enough and the writer you’re translating is also familiar with both languages, you create something new.” The nuances of words, she said, are much better understood if you’re familiar with both languages. “When you say tika or sindhoor, the images it evokes in your mind and the mind of the person you’re saying it to are completely different from what it evokes when you say vermilion.”

So translating from one Indian language to another, she has found, is often easier than from English. “When I was translating Girish’s plays to Hindi, I also had access to the Kannada original, which helped.”

She has translated three of Girish Karnad’s plays, A Heap of Broken Images, Flowers and Wedding Album, Mahesh Dattani’s short play Thirty Days in September – also recently filmed, she said – Kiran Nagarkar’s novel Cuckold and a few of Dhiruben Patel’s short stories, all of them into Hindi.


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