Of Translations, Writing And Bringing Social Change Through Literature
Literary art is diverse and multilingual even within our country. With millions of texts depicting scores of lives regionally, it is difficult for these texts to be read widely if it is not written in a popular language like Hindi or English. For that, there is a small community of authors who take it upon themselves to find the regional literary gems from the deepest corners of the country and translate that work for it to reach the masses within the country and across borders too. To understand the art of translation, transcreation and its inspiration, we had a panel discussion at the SheThePeople.TV’s Women Writers’ Fest held in Mumbai on Saturday.
The panel comprised of literary pioneers like Annie Zaidi, Anjali Purohit, Anuradha Parikh and was moderated by one of the members of the Indian Novels Collective, Ashwani Kumar. Talking about how she goes back into the women and peasants of the Marathi world and captures their everyday activities and brings it back to the English language, Purohit said, “Translations are just reading literature itself, it is something that enriches you, opens you up to the stories of other people. And when you read or do a translation, it’s not just other people in your own community, language or region, but of a completely different setting and therefore it broadens one’s mind and makes one a better person and society itself.”
— WomenWritersFest (@womenwriterfest) March 16, 2019
TRANSLATION IS A PRODUCT OF TRANSLATORS’ BIAS
On retaining the purity of language and yet the change that takes place once a text is translated, Purohit, who has translated the original Marathi ovis (couplets) by Bahinabai Choudhari, explained, “Ovis are a form of work songs that women in Maharashtra sing when they work. So while translating, like in painting, you will choose a medium that would best depict the subject that you want to put through. Similarly, in a text, a translator catches on to what one wants to project. It is biased in the sense, whether one wants to give out the exact meaning of each word, or the thought behind it but in the case of Marathi Ovis, I felt that the rhythm of it was important to be translated. Therefore in this book, I have given the transliteration of the Ovi and tried to mirror it with the thought and music of it,” she added.
FROM INSTINCT TO IDEA-ZAIDI’S WRITING PROCESS
Zaidi, who is a noted playwright with plays like play “Untitled-1” that won her The Hindu Playwright Award 2018 and Jaal, is an English-language writer and calls herself equally fluent in Hindi too. Talking about what it’s like to work across different genres, she said, “When you are writing, you have to take the decision of what shape the idea will take. It can become a poem, a play, a novel and the decision of how this will translate is instinct for me. So if I have an idea, instead of speaking it out, I choose to write it down which is what my instinct compels me to do. Then the instinct will give some shape to the idea and one reaches out to that form and in that reaching is the act of translation. And it is where the writing begins.”
SOCIAL CHANGE THROUGH PERFORMANCE
Founding-Director of G5A Foundation, which encourages contemporary art and culture that is experimental and courageous, Parikh sheds light on how she relates translation and plays and its becoming a community project. “Our community project is about bringing the art to a wider audience by empowering them with certain ways of looking at the world but also with skills. The artists that we work with perform plays at G5A but we also ask them to spend some time with our local community so that there is access because finally art must be about people.
So if I have an idea, instead of speaking it out, I choose to write it down which is what my instinct compels me to do. Then the instinct will give some shape to the idea and one reaches out to that form and in that reaching is the act of translation. And it is where the writing begins.”
So with playwright Poorva Naresh, we asked her to work with the community at the Worli-Koliwada where we are working currently around waste management. Finally, it all culminated in a performance in Koliwada and we had around 500 people from the community who attended it.”
The panelists showed the power of literature and how through translations, writing and community projects that involve performances, real change can be brought into the society. Art has always had a great impact on humanity and so it is only appropriate to say that art must be translated, performed and used to create mass change.