today's:

Oct. 18th, 2011 06:34 pm
Although I fear the translation loses much of the fire of the original:

தேடி சோறு தினம் தின்று
பல சின்னஞ்சிறு கதைகள் பேசி
வாடி துன்பம் மிக உழன்று
பிறர் வாட பல செய்கை செய்து
நரை கூடி கிழப்பருவம் எய்தி
கொடும் கூற்றுக்கிறையாகி மாயும்
சில வேடிக்கை மனிதரை போலவே
நானும் வீழ்வேன் என்று நினைத்தாயோ?

சுப்ரமணிய பாரதி

Did you think I, too, would simply follow suit:
give up, and be struck down like these fools,
these laughable people who spend their days
in small things: meals, dejection, insignificant stories;
who while vilifying and being vilified
watch their hair greying, quickly?

Subramanya Bharati
A small verse of Akbar Allahabadi; a lead-in to the piece about colonialism and Europeanisation and the enforcement of the Hindi-Urdu divide that I would like to write some day, but that perhaps someone fluenter and more historically-versed should instead. (The copy I have is written only in Devanagari; I have transliterated for the benefit of those who do not read it, hopefully accurately. Especially since this was originally written down in the Urdu script -- a little ironic given the debate this ends up participating in, no?) Translation is rather rough, for which I apologise.

योरपवाले जो चाहें दिल में भर दें
जिसके सर पर जो चाहें तोहमत धर दें ।
बचते रहो इनकी तेज़ियों से ाकबर ।
तुम क्या हो ख़ुदा के तीन टुकड़े कर दें ।।

یوراپوالے جو چاہیں دل میں بھر دن
جسکے سر پر جو چاہیں توہمات دھر دن
بچتے رہو انکی تزیوں سے اکبر
تم کیا ہو خدا کے تین تکدے کر دن

Europe-waalein jo chaahein dil mein bhar dein
jiske sar par jo chaahein tohamat dhar dein
bachte raho inki teziyon se akbar
tum kya ho khuda ke theen tukde kar dein


Europeans! They fill our hearts with what they like,
and call us all guilty; blame whoever they like.
Take caution; beware their trickery, o Akbar;
if they can split even God into three, then what are you?


If you have JSTOR access, there is also a fairly interesting discussion of Akbar Allahabadi's role in national/transnational politics here, which is well worth reading; there are also some biting little pieces of his about colonised mentalities, which I must find again! (And which go well with Sahir Ludhianvi's verses about the deliberate destruction of Urdu as a register.) It would be fun, perhaps, to write and oscillate back and forth between using Persianised vocabulary and using only Sanskrit roots, and make snide comments about the ridiculousness of religious nationalism and the divide-and-rule policy. But I think for that, I would need to fly through all this language where I currently stumble. (And on the stumbling, I'm not even sure which language I mean.)
I've been reading (and poorly translating) Tamil poetry recently in lieu of actual productivity. Here's a very politicised piece from M. A. Nuhman; I shall refrain from commenting on the politics in question. Please note translation is very schematic and lacks intrinsic artistic merit, because I was mostly struggling to make sure I was accurately conveying information, here; I might return to this and try to write it in a way that is at least moderately appealing on its own terms.

புத்தரின் படுகொலை

நேற்று என் கனவில்
புத்தபெருமான் சுடப்பட்டிறந்தார்.
சிவில் உடை அணிந்த
அரச காவலர் அவரைக்கொன்றனர்.
யாழ் நுலகத்தின் படிக்கட்டருகே
அவரது சடலம் குருதியில் கிடந்தது!

இரவின் இருளில் அமைச்சர்கள் வந்தனர்.
"எங்கள் பட்டியலில் இவர் பெயர் இல்லை
பின் ஏன் கொன்றீர்?"
என்று சினந்தனர்

"இல்லை ஐயா
தவறுகள் எவையும் நிகழவே இல்லை
இவரைச்சுடாமல்
ஓர் ஈயினைக்கூடச்
சுடமுயாது போயிற்று எம்மால்
ஆகையால்த்தான்"
என்றனர் அவர்கள்

"சரி சரி
உடனே மறையுங்கள் பிணத்தை"
என்று கூறி அமைச்சர்கள் மறைந்தனர்.

சிவில் உடையாளர்
பிணத்தை உள்ளே இழுத்துச்சென்றனர்
தொண்ணுறாயிறம் புத்தகங்களினால்
புத்தரின் மேனியை மூடி மறைத்தனர்.

சிகாலோகவாத சூத்திரத்தினைக் கொழுத்தி
எரித்தனர்
புத்தரின் சடலம் அஸ்த்தியானது
தம்ம பதமும்தான் சாம்பரானது
             

Last night, I dreamt that Buddha, lord, was dead:

The government police, dressed like civilians,
shot him, and killed him.
His body lay on the steps of the library
blood-soaked.

In the night, dark, the ministers raged:
'Why did you kill him? Here is our list
without his name on it.'

'No, sirs! Nothing wrong was done!
But we had to kill him:
while he was alive, we couldn't even kill a single fly.
Thus--'

'Fine. Fine. But get rid of him, at once!'
--and so the ministers vanished.

Then, the plainclothesmen dragged the corpse inside;
they piled books on him, ninety thousand;
lit the pyre with the Sigalovada Sutra1:

And watched the Lord Buddha's body burn,
With the Dhammapada.


& a very short piece by the modern poet Gnanakoothan, perhaps unrelated in subject matter:

எனக்கும் தமிழ்தான் மூச்சு
ஆனால்
பிறர்மேல் அதைவிட மாட்டேன்

Even to me, Tamil's the very breath of life--
But
I won't breathe it down someone else's neck.

A possible alternative, slightly different in tone:
Although even I think Tamil's the very breath of life,
I'm not breathing it down anyone else's neck!




1: 'சிகாலோகவாத': I assume it is this.
This article about the use of dogs of various sizes as narrative punctuation reminded me of José Saramago's The History of the Siege of Lisbon, in which it was 'true that a dog did bark, to no avail, for everyone else was asleep, perhaps dreaming that they were barking in their dreams.'

--but moving on from the auspices of that particular (involving a blind muezzin at sunrise) story into the more solid realm of Proper Historical Criticism (!), a few pages later --

It is doubtful, for example, although it is always wise to question one's own doubt, that the historian would mention dogs and the barking of dogs in his narrative, because he knows that the dog, for the Arabs, is an unclean animal, just like the pig, and therefore, it would be a display of crass ignorance to assume that the Moors of Lisbon, zealous as they are, would be living cheek by jowl with a pack of dogs. A pigsty by the door of the house and a dog-kennel or wicker basket for one's lap-dog are Christian inventions, it is not by accident that the Moslems refer to the warriors of the cross as dogs, and they might well have called them pigs, although there is no evidence to prove it. Clearly, if this is true, then it is a pity not to be able to count any more on a dog barking at the moon or scratching its ear infested by fleas [...]

--which reminds me of this Arab-perspective account from the tenth century of terrible, flea-bitten Europeans, washing themselves and spitting all together in the same n-times-befouled water, and et cetera; there is probably material for some sort of insightful cultural/contextual commentary in all this, but a book entitled 'DOGS $with some expository text$' just turned up on my doorstep with the afternoon post. It is by a particular Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, and cannot decide whether it wants to be called 'DOGS FROM A SUFI POINT OF VIEW' (as its cover claims), or 'DOGS From the Sufi Point of View' (the interior title-page begs to differ!). In any case, we are quite clear on the inclusion of DOGS. This book appears to have a somewhat discombobulated attitude towards The Dog (who always deserves this sort of capitalisation, naturally, as a Platonic Archetype of Woof).
1. "Dear friends, the dog addressed me in the language of state, saying 'Bayazid, what did I do wrong in pre-eternity and you do right, that I should be dressed in the skin of a dog and you in the robes of the monarch of gnostics?'."
2. I am the dog at the threshold of neediness,
My collar is fashioned from fidelity to God.
3. [...] if two persons pass by carrying a bier on their shoulders with a body upon it, this ignoble creature thinks it is a banquet to be spread.

& so, quite historically interesting really! (The book is interesting, if flawed, and my teasing is lightly-meant.) I shall eschew further citations, however germane, in favour of pointing out the insult 'O water-skin full of wind!', which is truly quite splendid. However, all of this caused some understandable confusion in my mind regarding the correct place of the dog (The Dog) in the natural order. So I asked my six-year-old cousin if she would explain to me the dog. Her response was 'Don't be silly.'

So I sha'n't.

October 2011

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