Teacher recalls joy of translating ​Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s poems

HUBBALLI: “Translating Vajpayee’s anthology ‘Meri Ekyyavan Kavitaien’ was a roller-coaster ride — I cried, laughed and experienced a range of emotions over three years from 2012 I took to translate his 51 peoms,” recalled Prof Shrimati Das, associate professor, Nehru College, .
She added, “I cried a lot while translating ‘Heeroshima Ki Peeda’ and felt happy while translating ‘Mann Ka Santosh’. He shows his micro observations about climate in ‘Hari hari doob par’ and comes across sad in ‘Sapana toot gaya’. He turns philosophical in ‘Jeevan Ki Dhalne Lagi Saanjh’. In `Ek Baras Beet Gaya’, he reflects and is humorous in ‘Babali Ki Diwali’, a poem in which he makes two puppies celebrate Deepavali. This poem enthrall everyone, from children to senior citizens, and shows how Vajpayee was naughty at heart.”

Das, an accomplished classical dancer, yoga teacher, activist, speaker on gender identity at international forums and teacher of critical new age theories for three decades, said he wrote about traditional values and focused on public transport in some poems.Though he criticised many politicians in some poems, he never named anyone. “He used poetry to express his feelings about a particular person but never hurt her. He debated with himself about the relationship with Pakistan without naming the country,” she said.

She said this anthology captures humanity, India and Indians. “I saw the poet’s name only after buying it. There was absolutely nothing political about this academic activity. It was purely an intellectual exercise. For me, Vajpaye is just a great poet. When I first read it, my eyes filled with tears. When I’d recite these poems in class without mentioning the poet’s name, students would respond heartily. There was a good response for these poems at national and international conferences. However, translating them into English was very difficult as English is a very limited language compared to any Indian language. Sometimes, I took a day and sometimes a month to translate each poem. I ensured it would not be a word-to-word translation but a transcreation of thought,” she explained.

The translated anthology ‘My FiftyOne Poems’ was released by Goa governor Mridula Sinha in Goa in 2015.

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