There is no occasion to read poems in college. Courses are outdated and students hardly read outside their curriculum, poet Aravind Krishna Mehrotra has said. He was speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the Hay Festival in the city on Thursday.

According to him, students are not exposed to book reading sessions or interactions with authors or poets. Their daily routine is so tightly packed that they hardly find time to explore various works. Often they learn only what is taught in school. Unless today's generation is exposed to a wide range of works, genre such as poetry will be overshadowed by fiction.

Mr. Mehrotra is the author of four books of poetry, the editor of theOxford India Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets;Collected Poems in Englishby Arun Kolatkar andAn Illustrated History of Indian Literature in English, and the translator ofThe Absent Traveller: Prakrit Love Poetryand songs of Kabir. He is also the recipient of PEN Translation Fund Grant in 2009.

On “The Absent Traveller…” he said the Prakrit poem revolved around sexuality of women.

These poems are said to be compiled by the Satavahana king Hala in the second century in Maharashtri Prakrit, he said at a session “The Absent lover: Love and Longing in Ancient India, Aravind Krishna Mehrotra in Conversation with Arundhati Subramaniam,” at the festival.

Translator's view

According to him, not knowing a language is not an impediment for translation. In India, translation is different from the West. The translator often added his/her own style to it.

“We do translation from inside. May be there is an Indian way of translation. If the text itself is unstable, as is the case with most of the Kabir poems, it will be ridiculous not to have your own style. I wish that people never return to the original once they read my translation,” he added. Often one needs to remove the repetitive elements in oral poetry to get to the real image of the poem, he added.

Mr. Mehrotra will join a session — Twice Told Fictions: the new life of Translations at the festival on November 18.

Keywords: Hay Festival