Category Archives: Translations-Transcreations to English

Mostly translations of classic Bengali literature. There is a Japanese piece too.

Translation of a song by Rabindranath Tagore

Far away, a plaintive tune
Plays the veena of the path kissed by your feet.
This mind mine feels restlessly wayward
What it seeks I do not know alas.

Pursuing in this untamed breeze
Jasmine flavours lost in turbulence
Likewise the heart’s melancholy
So agonizing on this night of separation.

***

The original song baje karuna sure was used by Satyajit Ray in his film Teen Konya (Three Daughters). The background singer was Ruma Guha Thakurta.

Yellow House

Early Version: January 14, 2015
Latest Version: May 27, 2015   
***
By the field, the mason deftly made
The yellow house, with a modest strip of yard
Latticed scaffold, boundary-wall brick-laid
All of these the mason deftly made. 

For the house, how deeply did he care
Kept it tidy, as he would his face
That no one called it horror, nor failure 
Or an outpost, a forlorn gathering place. 

By the field the mason deftly made
The yellow house, where clouds billowed and flocked
And, besides, the latticed scaffold swayed
Luckless fate, in trite pomposity locked.

Suddenly an eve brought tremors down the street
When a vehicle pulled up southwards with panache
Fun-watchers, curious, swarmed forwards to greet
As he bought up all there was in cash.

Alone, and away from public view to find,
The mason left his scaffolding behind.
____________________

Translation-cum-transcreation of a classic Bengali poem হলুদবাড়ি (holudbari) meaning ‘Yellow House’ by Shakti Chattopaddhay. The poem appeared in the collection ধর্মে আছো জিরাফেও আছো (dhorme achho giraffe-eo achho, meaning, you exist in religion as well as in the giraffe). Surja Sankar Ray’s help is gratefully acknowledged. But for him, the project would have remained incomplete.

Exchange

cherry
 
 
desolate2

 In its stead then, you receive
          A silent pool wrought just for you
          A looking glass clear and painted blue
               Water, light-filled, glows --
          Image of a branch, flowers bowed 
          The fluttering sail of a violet cloud
                  A fulfilled heart assures --
An inward eye can all perceive. 


In its stead then, you receive
         Musings mundane, void and bare
         Dusty feet marked paths that stare
               Winds sucked dry of tears --
         A distant familiar voice might call
         During a midday, bereft of all
               No one turns and hears.
These too did you have to leave!                  

_______
Translation-cum-transcreation of a classic Bengali poem বিনিময় (binimoy, meaning exchange) by Amiya Chakravarty. The poem was published around 1953 in a collection of Chakravarty’s poems entitled পারাপার (parapar, meaning ferrying across). I take this opportunity to thank my wonderful friend Surja Sankar Ray for his interpretation of the poem as well as his advice on the many drafts preceding what has been posted.

Hridoypur** (Revised)

Early version: December 31, 2014
This version: January 5, 2020

A veil of darkness still there was -- and yet the light of day Hridoypur was all abuzz -- with perplexities at play Drowned the river bank below -- in the sky one saw recline A lustrous moon in all its glow -- its eyes a pitiless shine Why offer her a ride at all -- whose face expresses frown Who posts a guard on every wall -- and keeps her shutters down? Can a tryst with her then make much sense -- now again this day At Hridoypur where perplexities -- are done with childish play?

__________________________
Translation-cum-transcreation of a classic Bengali poem হৃদয়পুর (Hridoypur) by Shakti Chattopadhyay. The poem was published in his collection entitled ধর্মে আছো জিরাফেও আছ (“dhorme aachho giraffe-eo achho”, which literally translates to “you exist in religion as well as in the giraffe”) around the year 1977.

**For those unfamiliar with the Bengali language, the word “hridoy” means heart. The word “pur” means a locality. It’s a common suffix carried by a number of large as well as small towns and villages in India, such as Nagpur, Kanpur, Mathurapur and so on. Hridoypur could mean a geographical territory, and indeed a locality by that name exists, but in the present context, the word “hridoy” (heart) lends to it a poetic connotation.

English Rendition of a Tagore Song — Untitled


When I shall not stroll along -- my old habitual way Put a stop to rowing my boat -- from this little quay With sales and purchase all completed Neither lender nor indebted I'll never visit this fair again on any scheduled day You might as well not remember me then Or look towards the stars and keep calling me in vain. When fate decreed, the tanpura-strings begin to gather dust Thorny creepers block all doors to climb up as they must Rank grass o'ertaken the flowerbed Algae fringed lakes lie neglected You might as well not remember me then Or look towards the stars and keep calling me in vain. Flutes will charm then as now they do on life's vibrant stage Pass they will, the days will pass, Like today the days then too shall all the world engage Along the quays the ferryboats will keep on crowding as they do still -- On the fields the shepherds will play and their cattle too shall graze. You might as well not remember me then Or look towards the stars and keep calling me in vain. But who'll claim that I too shan't be present on that morn Each and every game that's played, I surely shall adorn By a fresh new name they'll grace -- and tie me in their arms' embrace I'll come and go as I always did -- in my free willed way. You might as well not remember me then Or look towards the stars and keep calling me in vain.

English rendition, as opposed to translation, of a classic Bengali poem/song by Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore wrote this poem in the year 1915, when he was aged 54. He had earned the Nobel Prize in 1913. To the best of my knowledge, Tagore didn’t title the composition. He viewed it probably more as a song than a poem and didn’t need to add a title to it.

 
 
 
 
 

The Neem Tree — Flash Fiction # 2 (Transcreation)


Some tear away leaves for grinding.

Yet others fry them in oil.

To apply on ringworm afflicted skin.

A panacea for a variety of skin ailments.

Many eat the tender leaves.

Raw, uncooked.

Or, sautéed with eggplant.

Helps the liver.

Endlessly many chew the young twigs … to keep their teeth healthy.

Practitioners of traditional medicine praise it to the skies.

The wise are pleased to see it grow next to one’s dwelling.

“Breeze filtered through Neem leaves is good for health. Don’t chop it down,” they say.

No one chops it, but they don’t care for it either.

Garbage collects on every side.

Some build a paved platform around its stem. That’s yet another piece of junk.

Suddenly one day a maverick arrives.

He stares at the Neem tree with rapt attention. He doesn’t tear any part of the bark, nor the leaves. He does not snap a single twig. He simply keeps gazing.

Spellbound.

And then he says, “Oh, how exquisite the leaves … magnificent! How pretty the flower bunches … as though a flock of stars has descended from the blue sky on to the green lake below … Lovely …”

He stands staring for a while and then goes about his way.

He was not one for diseases to cure, but a poet pure.

The tree wished it could leave with the man. But it failed. Its roots had penetrated deep inside the earth. It remained standing in the middle of the garbage heap behind the house.

The condition of the docile young girl married off in the crammed household next door, brimming though she is with housewifely virtues, is no different.

Transcreation of a classic Bengali Flash Fiction নিমগাছ (neemgaach) by Banaphool. It was originally published in 1946 in a collection called অদৃশ্যলোক (adrishyalok, translated “invisible world”).

 

Yellow House

 

Early Version: January 14, 2015 Latest Version: May 27, 2015 ________________________   By the field, the mason deftly made The yellow house, with a modest strip of a yard Latticed scaffold, a boundary-wall brick-laid All of these the mason deftly made. How deeply did he care for the house Kept it tidy, as he would his face That a failure no one called it, nor hideous Or an outpost, a forlorn gathering place. By the field the mason deftly made The yellow house, where clouds billowed and flocked And, besides, the latticed scaffold swayed Luckless fate, in trite pomposity locked. Suddenly, one eve brought tremors down the street As a vehicle pulled up southwards with panache Fun-watchers, curious, swarmed forwards to greet As he bought up all there was in cash. Alone, and away from public view to find, The mason left his scaffolding behind.

Translation-cum-transcreation of a classic Bengali poem হলুদবাড়ি (holudbari) meaning ‘Yellow House’ by Shakti Chattopaddhay. The poem appeared in the collection ধর্মে আছো জিরাফেও আছো (dhorme achho giraffe-eo achho, meaning, you exist in religion as well as in the giraffe). Surja Sankar Ray’s help is gratefully acknowledged. But for him, the project would have remained incomplete.

 
 
 
 

Hridoypur**

Early version: December 31, 2014
This version: January 4, 2020

A veil of darkness still there was -- and yet the light of day Hridoypur was all abuzz -- with curiosities at play Drowned the river bank below -- in the sky one saw recline A lustrous moon in all its glow -- its eyes a pitiless shine Why offer her a ride at all -- whose face expresses frown Who posts a guard on every wall -- and keeps her shutters down? Can a tryst with her then make much sense -- now again this day At Hridoypur where curiosities -- are done with childish play?

_____________________________
Translation-cum-transcreation of a classic Bengali poem হৃদয়পুর (Hridoypur) by Shakti Chattopadhyay. The poem was published in his collection entitled ধর্মে আছো জিরাফেও আছ (“dhorme aachho giraffe-eo achho”, which literally translates to “you exist in religion as well as in the giraffe”) around the year 1977.

**For those unfamiliar with the Bengali language, the word “hridoy” means heart. The word “pur” means a locality. It’s a common suffix carried by a number of large as well as small towns and villages in India, such as Nagpur, Kanpur and so on. Hridoypur could mean a geographical territory, and indeed a locality by that name exists, but in the present context, the word “hridoy” (heart) lends to it a poetic connotation.

Drunk

This version of the translation: 22.12.2014.

Make him a little more drunk. Or else this universe He'll find it mighty hard to bear. He's only a young man still, Oh Lord. Well then, to his middle age convert him now -- Or else this universe Will find him mighty hard to bear.

__________________
Translation-cum-transcreation of a Bengali poem মাতাল (matal, meaning drunk) by Sankha Ghosh. It was published in his collection নিহিত পাতালছায়া (nihito patalchhaya, meaning Hidden Shadow of the Netherworld) in 1967.

Loony

Photo of Howrah Bridge

Photo of Howrah Bridge

'Sky resounding -- what's this roar for Fretting and fuming and a ruin of health? Living itself will make life livable Dying causes certain death.' -- His eyes lit up with a hint of a twinkle, As the tipsy signor exhorted thus -- A swig or two need at most be consumed For what's to be borne -- to be borne sans fuss. 'Perch atop the Howrah Bridge And search way down or straight upright -- Only two classes you'll get to see One is daft and the other bright.'

______________________________
Translation-cum-transcreation of a Bengali poem পাগল (pagol) by Sankha Ghosh. It was published in his collection নিহিত পাতালছায়া (nihito patalchhaya, meaning Hidden Shadow of the Netherworld) in 1967.

Note: Howrah Bridge is a well-known bridge across the River Hoogly which flows through the city of Kolkata.