It is interesting that translations of three Urdu poets have been taken up by women
Bettale Rasteya Kanasina Deepa, Kaifi Azmi, Translated by Vibha, Ladayi Prakashana,
Bettale Fakeera, Ali Sardar Jafri, Translated by Ja.Na. Tejashri, Abhinava Prakashana
Preethi mattu Kranthi, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Translated by Bageshree S. Lankesh Prakashana
As a cultural phenomenon, translation provides a fascinating window into the inner compulsions and dynamics of the receiving culture. The publication of four volumes of poetry in quick succession, translated to Kannada from Urdu and the fact that all its translators are young women gives rise to some important questions. Modern Kannada poetry, in general is dominated by an attitude, which prevents women from giving full vent to their inner yearnings. The cultural mores adopted by the dominating middle class in South India, denies a cultural space to women of domestic calling. Their creativity gets submerged in a plethora of restrictions. It is to be noted that the poets chosen for translation are at once die-hard progressives and incurable romantics. An element of melody inherent in Persian and Arabic poetry is interwoven into the fabric of their poetry. This unique combination of non-traditional attributes has liberated poets such as Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri and Faiz Ahmed Faiz from the shackles of convention and their poetry treats women as much more than their corporeal realities. These poems are suffused with a combination of ecstasy and anguish that has resulted in poetry of enduring charm.
These translators are serious students of Kannada and English literatures and they have exhibited genuine creative capacities. Vibha who has published an entire volume of Kaifi Azmi’s poems and a small anthology of other Urdu poets was herself a vibrant poet. Ja. Na. Tejashri who has published four collections of her own poetry has created a niche for herself by choosing unexplored regions of experience and by the artistic intensity with which she handles them. She has translated Pablo Neruda also. Bageshree is an author and journalist. All of them have made genuine efforts to negotiate the Urdu originals and have used multiple translations in English. It is not our intension to make a comparative assessment or analysis of these ventures. However, an attempt is made to look at some common features and try to put them in a cultural perspective.
These poets were deeply concerned with ideas of nationalism and were hugely influenced by progressive-Marxist ideology. Many poems that are translated in these collections carry the burden of such fervour and enthusiasm. However, the translators are by and large not overtly interested in such poems, even though they are committed to such values, in varying degrees. Their focus is on the emotional and romantic aspects of human relations. This is reflected in the choice of poems for translation whenever such a choice exists.
Another salient feature of these translations is the treatment meted out to songs. Many of these poems were originally composed as songs. Some of them are extremely popular as film songs. Even otherwise, the celebrated Mushaira tradition in Urdu facilitates musical compositions. However, all the translators have converted them into poems bereft of their melody. This leads us to an intriguing phenomenon. Women poets in Kannada have hardly written poems that could be rendered as songs. We have female singers but not songsters. As K.S. Narasimhaswamy, one of our foremost poets pointed out, sad hearts cannot create songs. Does this point an accusing finger at the male dominated society which has relegated its women in abysmal depths of misery? This negation of the song-mode could be perceived also as a consequence of the modernist phase in Kannada poetry. ‘Sugama Sangeetha’ which found stringent critics among the modernists has not garnered the support of women poets either.
Yet another facet of almost all these poems is that they depict the oneness of human psyche and aspirations even though it is concealed in apparently heterogeneous cultural details. The poets and the translators have struck the right balance between cultural uniqueness and universal appeal in terms of content as well as stylistic choices.
The translators deserve accolades for a well accomplished task. They have recreated the nuances of the original poems and tried their best to cater to the sensibilities of the modern reader who is neither overtly romantic nor blatantly progressive. All of them have provided ample supplementary material and written competent introductions. An insularity to external influences leads to inbreeding and monotony.