Translations have been very educative
My first job of translating a document
was a very difficult exercise. I was translating the ‘Chairman’s speech’ at the
Annual General Meeting of the shareholders, in Marathi for the Company’s
magazine. The speech was characteristically very short. It stood out for two
qualities – for its brevity, unlike the Chairman’s speeches of those times of companies
like Hindustan Lever [as it was then] and ITC, which were very elaborate, and
for its brief content loaded with a lot of meaning or message. I remember
brooding over some sentences, their meaning and trying a lot of expressions and
words to capture the meaning as truthfully as possible. There was no question
of anybody complimenting for this effort because it wasn’t a document that was
read for its literary value. Yet it was a great exercise for me, and not just
that, but also very educative.
I began by transliteration and
mistook it for translation till I realised that translation was a different
game. Sharad Chavan, who was well known news reader on AIR’s Mumbai channel was
a professional translator. I reached out to him when I was under severe time
pressure to translate and publish the Chairman’s speech in Marathi. I could see
the qualitative difference – his sentences were crisp, they captured the
essence of the original English sentence and placed emphasis on the words in
sync with the original text. There was a lot to learn from him. My acquaintance
with Sharad Chavan was to grow later and he was to mentor me for developing my writing
skills is a story about which I will write later. Suffice it to say, I learnt a
lot from him.
It was always my desire to have a
book that carried my name as the author. This was partly satisfied when I
edited a book for my organisation, but it was editing credit, not writing. I
decided to translate a book, and I picked up ‘No Full Stops in India’ by Mark
Tully for translation in Marathi. The very first sentence presented a huge
stumbling block! Here it is: ‘How do you cope with the poverty?' That must
be the question I have been asked most frequently by visitors to India.’ I
found the question difficult to translate. I could not think of any appropriate
expression in Marathi which could convey ‘How do you cope with the poverty.’ I
tried hard but couldn’t. The first-sentence-stumbling was like the first ball
wicket of a batsman! You feel ashamed, you get a terrible sense of inadequacy.
I went ahead with some ‘compromise’ and translated the entire foreword. But the
stumbling at the very first step prevented me from publishing it.
Later, I also translated the
foreword to Rajmohan Gandhi’s ‘Understanding Muslim Mind.’ When Babri masjid
was pulled down, I published it in the Company’s magazine, it was within three
days of the Babri Masjid event!
After retirement, I translated a
hundred page English book in Marathi. It is all about how to work effectively
and build success. The format is that Michael Angelo explains ‘how to work
effectively and build success’ with examples from his life, to a person who has
failed in life. Translating that posed a great challenge. Yet the soothing
words of Suneel Karnik, the well-known editor, that it was a good translation
which deserved to be published, was a great compliment. He insists that I must
translate his two recommended books, and those remain on my list.
And now I am translating the
speech of a noble laureate, in Marathi. I stop at sentences which carry deep
meaning, think about the message, and experiment with words and constructing
sentences to catch the essence. This experience is impossible to describe. To experience
what I experienced, try translating these sentences: ‘It always troubled me
that the truth doesn’t fit into one heart, into one mind, that truth is somehow
splintered. There’s a lot of it, it is varied, and it is strewn about the
world.’ Or try this: ‘Content ruptures form. Breaks and changes it.
Everything overflows its banks: music, painting – even words in documents
escape the boundaries of the document.’
So much is said about the power
of words. Yet words remain ‘very poor communicators.’ Words are like the ‘local
trains’ at Mumbai’s overcrowded stations. They carry a lot of passengers and
leave out many stranded on the platform. My understanding of that quote is now
reinforced by my understanding of the meaning they carry.
Labels: Communication, Translation