My last poem I posted titled “Woh Mohabbat hi kya” was my first Hindi one on my blog yet. And to help my fellow blogger friends, who do not understand Hindi, I translated it to English. The problem was that I wasn’t completely happy with my own translation, because I felt it lacked the soul of my original poem and it was a more literal translation. Since, this blog is not intended to be a Hindi – English class, I figured something needed to be done about it. But, I had often read many times that translation is never perfect. The following quotes will give you an idea of what I’m saying.
“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”
― Robert Frost
“It is as impossible to translate poetry as it is to translate music.”
“The original is unfaithful to the translation.”
― Jorge Luis Borges
“You know, they say in France that translation is like a woman:
she is either beautiful or faithful. ”
― Marjane Satrapi
But there is so much more to translation than just trying to be exact replica of the original. Why ? Because I’ve read Rabindranath Tagore’s poems from his book Gitanjali, translated into English, and trust me they are incredible. Not being a Bengali myself, perhaps I may have missed out on the subtlety of his writings, but I think it’s more important to be able to really feel the soul in the writing. And the translation can be soulful too, given the writer translating it, pours his own heart, emotions and soul into it. Translation is an art, albeit a skilful one. Below are some of my favourite quotes, which convey my point precisely.
“When we learn to speak, we learn to translate.” ― Octavio Paz
“Having been borne across the world, we are translated men. It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can also be gained.”
― Salman Rushdie
“So many people consider their work a daily punishment. Whereas I love my work as a translator. Translation is a journey over a sea from one shore to the other. Sometimes I think of myself as a smuggler: I cross the frontier of language with my booty of words, ideas, images, and metaphors.”
― Amara Lakhous
So, why am I talking about translation so much? Because, I found a friend to help me resolve my dilemma of having to translate my poem and yet retain the emotions at its core. I believe she is one of the talented few people, who understand and express emotions regardless of words and language; she is truly a gifted translator. I am talking about Prachi Chhabra, whose blog I follow, because she posts the most beautiful songs and ghazals in Hindi along with their translations, which are perfect !
So, I thought why not ask her to help me out? Being the sweet girl that she is, she readily agreed ! I was very happy when she emailed me her version, which is certainly more poetic and closer to the soul of my Hindi poem. Here below, is Prachi’s translation.
What’s that morning worth, if it doesn’t begin with you
What’s the worth of that night, if it doesn’t have a dream about you
What’s that truth worth, if it doesn’t defeat all the lies
What’s that poet worth, if his pages aren’t covered in ink
What’s a heart worth, if it cannot experience love
What’s a life worth, if it cannot distinguish love
What is that love worth, if you’re not concerned about your lover
What is that Ranjha worth, if he weren’t looking for Heer at all!
I would certainly like to thank Prachi for having helped me out and hope to collaborate with her on more poems in the future. Also, after having read her email I thought rather than just editing the original post, why not post it separately and also share a few thoughts on translation itself ! I’ve realised that I am not yet very good with translation when it comes to my own writing, and certainly have a lot to learn about it.
But I would really love to hear your thoughts, of all my fellow bloggers here on WordPress. What are your thoughts on translation? Most of us are fluent in at least two languages, one being English. How has your experience been with translation? Be it reading or writing, I would love to hear about it.
I would like to end this post with one of my favourite quotes, which always makes me think and gives me hope to try and work harder on being better at translating my own writing.
“Something may have been lost in translation, but it certainly wasn’t love”
― Erich Segal, The Class
– Cheers, your fellow blogger & friend, Advaita Inamdar. 🙂