Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hindi Divas and Kannada Conscience

सभी हिन्दी बोलने वाले साथियों को "राष्ट्रीय हिन्दी दिवस" की बधाई | इस हिन्दी दिवस जो है, भारत के किसी और श्रीमन्त, पुराने और वैज्ञनिक भाषाओं को भी नही मिला हुवा एक पुरस्कार है!  इस के लिये आप सभी को फिर एक बार बधाई | हम लोग 'सौत' के हैं (जो भी भारत का एक हिस्सा है लेकिन जिस का मातृभाषा हिन्दी नहीं है), हमारे हिन्दी गलत हो सकती है; अगर गलत है तो माफ कीजियेगा (क्यों कि "कन्नड् गोत्तिल्ला" जैसे अनाडीपन हमारे लिये नामुमकिन है - of course with due respects to all those friends who are linguistically sensible and really courteous to others)

(Hearty congratulations to all those Hindi speaking friends on the day of "National Hindi Day".  This is a special honor that even the richer, older and more scientific languages did never get.  Congratulations once again for that.  We are the people from 'South' (which is also a part of India, but our Mother tongue is not Hindi), so it is possible that our Hindi could be wrong.  If it is, we beg your pardon (because we can't be as rude as saying "Kannad Gothilla" - of course with due respects to all those friends who are linguistically sensible and really courteous to others)

Having said that, I don't see why the whole India should be celebrating "Hindi Divas", while none in India is celebrating Kannada Divas, Tamil Divas, Oriya Divas, Kashmiri Divas.  Don't tell me "Hindi is our National Language".  This is one singular lie that has been consistently perpetrated by the politicians of North and their party followers from South for decades.  There is a saying - "a lie told hundred times becomes accepted as the truth"; but, the truth remains, that it is a lie.  To start with, can we have a look at the official website of the Indian Government that lists out all the National elements?  Here it is:


The website lists out the National Flag, National Anthem, National Song, State Emblem, National Bird, National Animal, National Flower - it goes on even to list out National Tree, National Calendar and Currency Symbol but no National Language!

Now let's see what our Constitution has to say about the "National Language" - Nothing!!! Yes, absolutely nothing.  Article 343-347 of The Constitution read with The Official Languages Act 1963 and the Official Languages Rules 1976 just say that Hindi is the Official Language (note, Official Language, not National Language) of the Union, that too limited to be used in the communication between the Union and the Hindi speaking states.  With all other states the official language continues to be English (of course, along with Hindi)!  And the article 348 specifically provides that all the Court proceedings and legislation must be in English!  Not just that - Article 344(3) clearly stipulates that Parliamentary committee on official language "shall have due regard to the...  just  claims  and  the  interests  of persons belonging to the non-Hindi speaking areas in regard to the public services"

And interestingly, in 2010 there was a PIL (Sureshbhai vs Union) before the High Court of Gujarat seeking directions to make it mandatory to print the goods details in Hindi since Hindi was the National Language of India.  The Court struck the petition down saying "there is nothing on the record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country"

So much for the claim of Hindi, The National Language.  On the other hand, the Schedule VIII of The Constitution lists out 22 official languages, of which Kannada and Hindi (and even Maithili) are the parts on equal terms.  Can somebody tell, from where this idea of Hindi being a National Language comes from?

Anyway, let's forget this official business.  True to my Indian spirit, I read (at least translations in some cases), listen to, relish and respect Sri Tulsidas, Surdas, Meera, Kabeer, Nanak, Chaitanya, Jayadeva, Ramdas, Dnyaneshwar as much as I do Sri Ramadasa (Bhadrachala), Annamayya, Tyagaraja, Tiruvalluvar, Kambar, and Swathi Tirunal.  They are as respectable for me as our own Dasas and Sharanas.  I can even quote a few of them heartily.  I feel the emotional vibrations and a sense of belonging when I visit the places connected with their memories.  Kailashnath, Kedarnath, Badrinath, and Vishwanath of North are as mine as the Dwarakanath in the West and Jagannath in the East and Rameshwar in the South.  We live to celebrate India in its true spirit - "aa sethu himachala paryanta (from the "Great Bridge" till the Himachala)".  While Rajkumar is our heart-throb, we don't like less of Big B or Rajanikanth.  Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Mukhesh, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi still haunt many of our hearts with their lasting melodies.  Do we have a reciprocation?  No, this is not a 'return of favors' - Do you feel the same about the rest of India (Do you even recognize that India stretches even beyond your 'Hindi Land')? The idea of nationalism can not survive without mutual respect, equality and a sense of belonging.  It can not survive with two sets of citizens namely Hindi and Non-Hindi

Hindi is neither National nor any extra-special that Kannada is not.  Instead of expecting us to learn Hindi just in order to obey your "Bhayya, Ek Masala Dosa dena, Ek eedli aur vada dena" etc, why don't you try to learn Kannada to happily coexist with us.  I am sure we can't expect you to learn Kannada and speak with us when we come to live with you in your place.

Click here for the Kannada version of the above article

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Harmony is life...

Recently I have observed a trend in Facebook and other social media.  Somebody, say a Brahmin, puts up an ad to sell some foodstuff dubbed to be some brahmin savories - that is on their wall or some group.  Suddenly it starts getting intense reactions, rebuttals, outrage, on one hand, and a vengeful support from the opponent group on the other hand, which ensures that the ad catches the maximum attention and garners more sales.  Well, since the people who put up this kind of ads are from poor and helpless families who must be doing this for their livelihood, that kind of momentary emotional reactions helped the family in a way - good.

But beyond this, it gives raise (must give raise) to a few serious thoughts.  Before we embark upon the same, let us try to summarize the criticisms that have risen against selling community related (read Brahmin) food:
  1. Brahmins have been treading down all other communities (!!!), especially the last community of the society, for thousands of years now
  2. While doing so, the community which is just 4% in strength, has been able to access and control the major share of the country's economic, political, social resources.  This is the "Social Capital" of that community.
  3. This social capital is the sole factor that enables a Brahmin succeed in life, no matter how poor he is initially; the others can never make it no matter how rich they are.
  4. The caste indicator of a Brahmin is a part of his Social Capital
  5. To use this 'illegitimate' Social Capital is to deprive the others of their opportunities.  Hence, to be fair, Brahmins should never use their caste anywhere in their endeavors.
  6. Hence it is a social injustice for the Brahmins to form community associations, to carry trade/commerce in the name of their community, to promote their caste brands, or doing any vocation/trade that is associated with their castes.
Of course, there must be an element of truth in the fancy story of this minuscule 4% having down-trodden all the other castes for thousands of years - but how big is that 'element' is still debatable.  But it must be true that, for at least a few hundred years at some point in the history, if not for thousands of years, the Brahmin community got embroiled in their superiority complex, trod down several communities, with many Brahmins enjoying royal patronage, land-lordships, endowments etc (And let us put aside the question of how many hundred years, how much of the Brahmin population enjoyed this 'superiority' and what has been the fate of the legendary traditional 'poor brahmin' during this 'hay time').  Having read the spiced up and bloated history based upon the thin thread of this truth, many modern-day brahmins have really repented their past, and have taken many personal and social measures to make good for their 'sinful' past, let us not forget that (just have a quick glance at the list of modern secularists who are Brahmins by birth).  Let us also take note of the fact that the ugly practice of untouchability, which was rampant till a few generations back, is almost extinct in the present generation of Brahmins.  Then, there is this 'Reservation Policy' of the government which aims at rectifying the social injustice caused over the past.  Let us, for the time being, forget the fact that there are quite many anomalies and flaws in its use and implementation though it is absolutely just in its spirit, and remember that these very Brahmins have in a way accepted it, albeit grumbling; of course there have been opposition, but which government measure does not face the opposition?  They say 60% of the power positions are occupied by Brahmins (I don't know).  If that be the truth, do you think this 60% could not do away with Reservation which is dubbed to be opposed by the Brahmins?  Shouldn't these 'cunning jackals' have removed it cleverly?  That must either disprove the fact that 60% of power is controlled by Brahmins, or it must prove that they are not as bad, after all.  Or could it be that they have kept quiet fearing the rest 40%?  If yes, then it just goes to prove that this 60% is a bunch of weaklings.  Then why fear/hate them so much?

Fine, let's now have a look at this Social Capital.  Before that, let's have a quick glance at real capital.  There is an estimate that about 30% of the total wealth of the country is controlled by 1% of the population; and a meager 8% of the wealth is distributed over 50% of population.  Remaining 62% wealth is controlled by 49% of the population, so says the estimate.

Now, can we say this 1% (around 1.3 Crores) that controls about 30% of wealth belong to Brahmin community?  I don't have any statistics to indicate this, but I don't see a single Brahmin in the list of top ten wealthiest persons in the country.  And, among 60-70 billionaires in the country, excepting some 5-6 (whose caste I could not make out), the rest are all Baniyas, Farss, Kayastha, Muslim, Christian, Nadar etc (Let's count these unidentified castes to Brahmins only - a maximum of 10%).  That means, percentage of Brahmins in this wealthiest bracket controlling 30% of wealth is 10% of 1%, i.e., 0.1% of the population.  Brahmins constituting about 4% of total population, where do the remaining 3.9% stand?  Shall we put them in the second bracket of 49% that controls 62% of wealth?  No sir, there have been poorest of poorest in Brahmins, since ages - who find it difficult even to make one square meal.  Even in the regime of so many Brahmin Dewans, Amaldars, Zamindars, Ministers, Prime Ministers, the common Brahmin has been the legendary "Poor Brahmin" only; Many brahmins in Delhi work in public toilets, many pull cycle rickshaw, run auto-rikshaws (no, I am not telling all this with a sorrow that the Brahmins have got to resort to these vocations, well there have been many other communities doing these since ages; I am telling this only for the sake of statistics).  Likewise, there have been a lot of Brahmins across the country who 'work' in government-controlled temples for peanut salaries (there are around 35000 such temples just in Karnataka alone).  And there are countless women like the one who gave the ad which is the matter of current discussion, who prepare and sell Happala, Sandige, curry powder etc.  None of these can come within the above second bracket.  They must figure somewhere in the lowest rungs of those 50% that accesses just 8% of the wealth.  No matter how much their number is, most of them are helpless illiterates, they won't even know priest job - they somehow run their life doing some cooking, services and miscellaneous household chores.  The 01% rich Brahmins above have never been of much help to these hapless people, nor have their so called 'Social Capital' been able to uplift them as well.   Most of them are people of self-respect, won't hold out their hand for alms, like to somehow lead a contented life of self-esteem, with whatever they have, doing whatever little they know to earn a living.  They have never begged, nor demanded for some privilege from the government, nor even requested somebody to bail them out by buying their products.  They have some products and services; they know that there is a specific demand for Brahmin-made products and services in the society, and they are just offering that.  Now that there is this social media, they are just trying to expand their traditional trade through social media.  What should one say if we find 'fault' of some Social Capital hitherto unknown to them, instead of admiring and appreciating their effort for self-reliance?  There has been a traditional relationship between the vocation and the caste; and the society has been living like this for ages - Priests (Brahmins) for marriages etc, Washer men for washing the clothes, Barbers for haircut and playing auspicious musical instruments etc.  Is it right or wrong, is a different debate; it is also a different debate whether one can pursue the other's vocation.  But these people are not as read as us, they cannot deliver lengthy speech about Social Capital etc.  Filling their tummy every day is their immediate concern, and they have a trade in their hand.  They carry it out, with dignity.  Brahmins have been traditionally known for priestly works, cooking etc (I am not telling they do it cleanly etc) but that is their ancestral vocation; there have been distinct communities that demand their products and services - these demanding communities could be Brahmins or non-brahmins.  When there are suppliers and demanders, what is our business between them?  And it's their brand as well - specific castes and communities are known for specific savories, and there is an opportunity for everybody to enjoy it.  Earlier the savories of Lingayats and Gowdas were not as famous; now they have built their brand and sell in the market.  There are buyers for that as well. 

Now there arises a question, a rather ill-meaning one - "fine, but do you eat in a Dalit eatery?"  Ill-meaning because there is no real concern here, the intention is to just rake up discontent and spread hatred.  Well, I can't give a blind answer like "Dalits have never sold their brand till now, how can I say?".  Yes, there is that social 'stigma' even today.  We must agree that many people do not patron a Dalit Khanavali.  But does it help the cause of Dalit Khanavali if you bar a few others from using their traditional brands?  Why, not all people go to Lingayat, Gowda or even Brahmin khanavali.  It is an individual's choice, isn't it?  But new brands have never stopped coming up.  Who knows, even Dalit Khanavali can find its root in due course.  What is important is encouraging them to undertake it like many other vocations, not curb the other people from carrying out their vocations in their traditional settings.  Personally, I don't have any specific 'choice' of people with whom to dine - as long as they have no objection dining with me - I dine with anybody happily.  I know there are thousands like me.  Why, even in our offices, cafeterias, hotels, do we think who is sitting next to us, who is serving us, and how is cooking for us?  Does their caste even cross our minds?  How long can we keep muttering the mugged-up lines from the age-old sociology textbooks, without recognizing these social changes?

And there is a counter question for those who ask where Dalit canteens really work.  Well, if true, it is really sad thing that the Dalit canteens/coffee-bars won't work at least in urban India.  Diehard cattiest won't drink in Dalit coffee-bars, let's leave them aside for now.  I drink; there are scores of people who think like me, they drink; and there is a huge non-Hindu community that keeps blaming Hindus for their casteism at every single opportunity (They are almost 25% of the country's population).  They must certainly not have any qualms drinking these coffee-bars; And the Dalits themselves form more than 15% of Indian population (and I believe they must not have any caste restrictions within themselves - because as far as the 'narratives' hitherto go, casteism is the forte of 'forward' communities like Brahmins, Lingayats, Gowdas etc); you can definitely enlist their support in the smooth running of their own hotels; Then there are these secularists, diehard ones - seeing their noise and dust across Facebook, I don't think they are very small in number.  Now if you say Dalit hotels won't run even with this huge number of people outside the cattiest groups, should we take this 'secularism' fake?  Isn't the pseudo-secularism more dangerous than the open, albeit wicked, casteism?

Well, let's, for now, set aside the Brahmins of 'low economic strata'.  Let's see how this Social Capital has helped the people of economically lower middle class like me.  While in college, even I had thought a lot about this Social Capital stuff; had felt a lot bad about the 'injustice' caused by my ancestors; I firmly believed that it is a shame to tell one’s own caste.  Hence, I left the fields of caste and religion while filling application for the college admission.  The clerk called me and scolded me to fill these fields.  I tried to deliver speech on the line of secularism etc.  He got angry and shouted at me that I was actually trying to hide my caste in order to get the government privilege like free ship, scholarship etc.  He also threatened me to complain my father whom he knew.  Forget it, even today, try to fill some government online form - the fields of caste and religions are usually mandatory.  It is unfortunate that the so-called secular government does not recognize you apart from your caste.

Okay, let's keep aside this technical matter.  Let's accept, for now, that is is a shame to tell one’s own caste, especially for Brahmins.  Instead let us call it a "Social Capital Caste (SCC).  I was born in this SSC.  My father was a teacher with Rs. 100+ as salary.  Naturally I studied in a government school - we had the students from 'all' castes there.  Barring a few wearing their caste marks on their forehead, I don't know the caste of anybody even today; it didn't even occur to us then to ask.  Subsequently I left this school and joined the school where my father taught.  More than half of the students there were from Dalit communities; a couple of us were from SSC (Social Capital Caste), and the rest were from other communities.  We fought occasionally, but those fights were due to some childish reasons, never for caste reasons.  A few among these boys were my close friends and at times my saviors as well - they protected me in many quarrels :) .  My father never taught in my class, for he did not like to give me one more Social Capital that I was a "teacher's son".  There were many teachers from Dalit community too, a few of them really good teachers, and a few not as good; there were a few not-so-good teachers from the other communities as well.  Teachers used to beat us, but never for caste reasons.  In the Seventh class, a girl came first to the class.  She was quite brilliant and did not belong to SSC community.  I came second.  But I don't remember anybody raising ruckus over "gender inequality, social capital etc" (None of us were aware of these things those days, hence I must guess our life was far cooler).  At home, my father scolded me that day, that I did not study properly.

There was a teacher in High-school whose name has been etched in my heart forever.  Her name is Doddamma 🙏.  She was our Kannada teacher (a few friends who are still active in FB can vouch for this).  This affectionate lady was from the same Dalit community, and if today I have any passion towards classical Kannada, I owe it to her. It was for the first time that I learnt that Kannada could be spoken so beautifully and so elegantly.  She would encourage her students so passionately to study classics. Not that she was a scholar, but she was a quite academic; if she could not resolve our questions, she would find it out and revert to us next day (I heard unfortunately she later developed some serious mental illness and died a couple of decades ago). This is the 'social capital' I hold, her bounty.  As much as it enriched my inner life, it didn't help in my vocation, let's remember.

There was another teacher, a Lingayat.  He taught us English.  I never liked this stout man of ill-health because he took a lot of special classes.  I always bunked his classes.  He disliked me equally, for the same reason.  But what he did during these 'unnecessary' special classes was, he thoroughly and comprehensively taught English grammar (what is specified in the syllabus and and also what is not) and gave detailed notes.  I, who was always looked down upon by him, realized the value of this only after I completed my high school.  Fortunately, I had scribbled most of these notes from time to time from the notebooks borrowed from my classmates.  I sat during the holiday before the college, made a neat note of the whole English grammar notes and learnt my English solidly during holidays.  This is the 'capital' that has helped me a lot in my vocation, his bounty 🙏.  I don't know if you call this a Social Capital or what else.

And I never got any job or privilege from the government.  In private interviews they have never asked me about my caste.  So, as far as I know, it is the skill I learnt that helped me in my job, no my 'Social Capital' called caste.  I know there are hundreds of stories like this.  When this is the case, let us not get envious or judgmental about people who are deprived of all other capitals, if they use their social capital for their livelihood (not for building a bungalow); let's be happy that they are building their own lives without being a burden on the society.  Instead, let us redirect the same effort in thinking about how to fill the capital for those who are deprived of their capital.


Please click here for the Kannada version of this write-up.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Corona - No panic, no superstition - Be responsible

While the whole world is gripped by the Corona fear, I have in front of me, four news items of harmful ignorance and superstition.  Well, there could be hundred such cases, and these four represent them:
  1. Four youth who had recently traveled from Dubai to India have refused to go through Corona tests for religious reasons.
  2. Some "Gaumootra Party" it seems - It seems a lot of people hailing from even far off places have participated in the 'party' organized by some radical cow-urine promoting organization, and found their mental elation by drinking mugs of Gaumootra, 'worshiping' Corona Virus , and shouting slogans "Corona, saanth ho jao"  Some of the organizers claim that Gaumootra is a sure-shot anecdote for Corona Virus; and they even assure a guaranteed remedy for whoever attacked by the virus.
  3. A Mullah from Iran has 'discovered' that some essential oils applied up the anus will eliminate Corona, and has urged the people to do so
  4. A doctor who firmly believes in, and only in, protests, has called upon the people to come out in torrents and protest against the government's decision to close the schools, colleges, functions etc in the wake of Corona threat

Well, we saw the four faces of ignorance. While both those who are for and who are against those 'schools' have shared these news items and and are enjoying admiring/trolling the same, our TRP-hungry, disaster-desparate TV channels are busy revving up deathly music, terming Corona as "the agent of death", "the death knell" etc, even as the virus has just made its entry into India and has not even killed ten people.  And the government is just coughing into the ears of everybody who try to make phone call, and has been successful creating a huge aversion about the Corona message, rather than the corona itself.  Suppose you want to call somebody urgently, but they are not picking up the call.  If you make ten failed call, you will hear this half a minute coughing sermon every time, making it around 10 minutes of wasted time.  How can anybody remain cool and composed with this?

And even amidst this chaos, hundreds of scientists across the country and across the world, are burning the mid-night oil in order to find an anecdote for the virus; thousands of doctors, and nurses are risking their lives attending the patients; scores of government personnel and health workers are struggling in airports and public places to bring about/implement suitable administrative measures contain the spread. 

Should the efforts of all these saviours not go waste, it is our sole responsibility to cooperate with them by showing a little more maturity, by avoiding all this chaos.  Cracking jokes about CoronaVirus is one thing, spreading rumors and superstition in another.  The first one keeps the mind light and healthy, but the second one will corrupt the mind and lead to disastrous behavior.

It's the right time to stay home and spend some quality time with the family, avoiding going out, especially the areas suspected with infection.  Home-entertainment and home-food can at least strengthen the family bond to an extent.  Well, if somebody is forced to go to work, you can't help - just wear a mask and exercise due care and caution.  Let's not flock the medical shops for masks.  It is not difficult to make a mask at home with clean and sterilized cloth.  After all, the mask will not protect you from corona to a great extent.  When somebody coughs and sneezes the droplets will get ejected from the nose/mouth and can travel wide and far.  Mask contains that force of ejection and to that extent it slows down the spread.  Likewise, it may (not stop but) restrict a free entry into your nose/mouth for the virus already in the air.  To this extent the mask will slow down the spread.

Expert help is of utmost importance, avoid self medication.  Yes, it is a traditionally known fact that medicinal things like tulsi (basil), ginger, pepper, garlic, guduchi/amritavalli (tinospora cordifolia), neem, papaya leaves do strengthen the body immunity in general, and the strengthened immunity may enhance your ability to fight Corona, to some extent.  But this is just a general guess, no lab-tests have till now confirmed that these are effective in fighting the Virus.  Of course, we won't lose anything by using these herbs/medicines from the point of view of general immunity - why, for many ailments the traditional household medicine have proved to be a sure-shot anecdote.  So there is no harm in using this but let there not be a false sense of safety, that we are safe from Corona just because we are using this.  Let's not neglect the timely diagnosis and treatment protocols.

There is an elaborate protocol already published by the government and other concerned organizations, to be followed in order to avoid/manage the infection.  It is enough if we follow them scrupulously.  DO NOT trust any 'solutions' coming from unauthorized sources.  Please remember, those who advise drinking cow-urine or applying some oil into the anus are neither doctors nor even ayurvedic/Unani experts.  Yes, there is a traditional belief that the 'gaumootra and gaumaya' (cow urine and dung) act as a disinfectant, but they are all for for general use, not for a bodily use.  Even the religious rituals like 'panchagavya' prescribe just a drop or two of gaumootra - I have never ever come across any scriptural/medical prescription prescribing to drink mugs of cow-urine.  Even if some scripture says that, it can not be trusted unless proven by lab-tests (While people dole out loads of unsolicited pseudo scientific explanation for the purly belief-based rituals like shikha (tuft) and the yajnopaveeta (sacred thread), namaskara (prostration) etc, it fails me to understand they expect you to 'trust' cow-urine as a medicine and drink mugs of it). As long as they are not inhuman, the religious beliefs and practices are always respectable, but they must remain in the level of beliefs (It is even my belief that certain beliefs work miracles sometimes).  But it is important that the others should not be jeopardized by your belief.  It's okay if you offer some sayings against Corona Virus to Tirupati Balaji, make some offerings to a local demigod, or distribute sugar in a dargah, or offer prayers in a church.  That is your belief, and we respect it, and wish you the best.  But if you say you won't do anything other than this, then, well, it is your fate - remain locked indoors as long as your beliefs protect you - don't come out and spread the fruits of your 'beliefs' to the others.  If you feel you are absolutely safe from Corona just because you have drunk a liter of gaumutra, or you have applied some special oil up the anus, then take our bow, and don't come out of your cage at all  🙏🙏🙏

[Click here for the Kannada version of this article]

Friday, October 05, 2018

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Vandemataram - Sri Aurobindo and myself

Earlier I had translated the famous song Vande Mataram into Kannada - you can see it here.  Now in the backdrop of discussions about the National Anthem, this song has sprung back into discussion.  My good friend Sri Sharat Bhat Seraje has put together and analyzed five translations (both Kannada and English) of this song.  I am pleasantly surprised to see even my translation featuring among the translations of the likes of Sri Shikaripura Harihara and Sri Aurobindo.  Among these translations, the translation by Sri Aurobindo drew my attention for many reasons.  Following is the translation of Sri Aurobindo:

Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark fields waving Mother of might,
Mother free.
Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow.

वन्दे मातरम्

सुजलां सुफलाम्
मलयज शीतलाम्
सस्यश्यामलां मातरम्
वन्दे मातरम्

सुहासिनीं सुमधुर भाषिणीम्
सुखदां वरदां मातरम्

vande mAtaram

sujalAM suPalAm
malayaja SItalAm
sasyaSyAmalAM mAtaram
vande mAtaram

suhAsinIM sumadhura BAShiNIm
suKadAM varadAM mAtaram

vande mAtaram)

Presenting this Sri Seraje explains it as a re-creation inspired by the original, reminding us of Keats and Shelly.  I guess this is the most apt explanation.  Though this piece is beautiful in its own right as an independent poem, I feel it fails as a translation, on many counts.  It but surprises me that the likes of Aurobindo could translate the word "sasyaSyAmalAM (सस्यश्यामलां)" as "dark fields"!  It is true that the word श्यम means dark, but that word acquires different hues of meanings and moods when used with different things and colours.  Moreover, there is no indication of the word "field" in the phrase "sasyaSyAmalAM (सस्यश्यामलां)" - What is green can be fields, can be gardens and can be forests as well.  That the poet intents to convey is "thick green" but even that translation does not touch the mood of the original.  the right translation in this context should be "lush green".  Though there is no mention of the word green in the original, there is a mention of vegetation (सस्य - sasya).  That gives the sense of green, and it must essentially be brought in the translation.

Likewise, the original depicts the words जल, फल, मलयजसीतल, सस्यश्यामल etc as the lively dimensions of the mother.  But in Aurobindo's translation these have become lifeless physical things like hurrying streams, orchard gleams, winds of delight, dark fields etc.  But this is not what is intended by the poet originally. Moreover, the prefix "सु" has a world of meanings about it in Sanskrit.  It is difficult to get a word with the same scope of meanings in English.  Well, you can use the word "good" but that has lost much of its sense due to over-usage.  So use of the adjective "good" gives but a bland translation which does not tell anything much.  So, instead of aiming at covering the whole spectrum of meanings for "सु" the translator has to contend himself by choosing one meaning that aptly depicts the 'goodness in the thing in question.  Here Sri Aurobindo has translated the prefix "सु" as hurrying in respect of water, and gleam in respect of fruit.  But neither the flow is the measure of 'goodness in water nor is the gleam in fruits.  For water it is the taste and for the fruit it is the freshness and sweetness that measures its 'goodness.  Likewise, there is a unique place for a mountain breeze among the breezes.  You can get a cool breeze from over the sea also, and it brings you delight as well. But that is not exactly describe the hilly breeze.  So it is very important to mention the "mountain breeze" in the translation - the translation "cool with winds of delights" does not bring the cool fragrance of the mountain breeze.

And we can see the other parts of the translations as well.  He translates the verse "शुभ्रज्योत्स्नापुलकितयामिनि (SuBrajyotsnApulakitayAmini - the one with nights tingled by bright moonlight)" as "Glory of moonlight dreams, over thy branches and lordly streams"   It just does not touch the original anywhere.  And फुल्लकुसुमितध्रुमदलशोभिनि (PullakusumitadhrumadalaSoBini) becomes a drab "Clad in blossoming trees".  And instead of taking a simple translation of "One with a sweet smile" for the word सुहासिनि (suhAsini), he translates it as "Laughing low and sweet"  In the first place, there is a world of difference between a smile and a laugh.  Laughing low can be a suppressed laughter (signifying sarcasm) at the best.  And Laughing low and sweet can not become anything but a cunning smile.  Same is the case with  सुमधुर भाषिणि (sumadhura BAShiNi).  Instead of contending with "sweet words" he translates it as "speaker sweet and low".  It is obvious that the translator has throughout been after the rhyming words like streams-gleams, delight-might, dreams-streams, trees-ease, sweet-feet, low-bow.  But the price that he had to pay for these rhymes is very big - it is nothing less than the very essence of the poem!   

As Mr. Seraje rightly puts, it can be called at the most a poem inspired by the original, but It is difficult to term it as a translation.

It is not very simple to translate from one language to another.  Many a times word to word translation becomes a nonsensical translation.  Likewise a translation of just the mood can become a sheer escapism.  A good translator chooses to tread between these two extremes - he strives hard to catch the strains of the original meaning, mood, feeling, the music of words, and their rhythm etc.  In doing so, many a times he resorts to word to word translation, sometimes the translation of the mood as well.  But he is always aware that he would be destroying the translation if he goes after one extreme.  The translation takes a beating the moment he dozes off for a moment.

Thinking on the same lines, I also tried a translation.  I can't say I have scrupulously followed the principles of translation that I myself depicted above.  I am sure this translation if full of all the drawbacks that are inevitable in a translation - I am aware that the brevity of the original has taken a beating here as well, and the rhymes are not exact rhymes and they are not religiously observed also.  I have tried to follow them as much as possible, and where it means compromising with the mood of the original, I have given the rhymes a slip.  I only hope that I have tried the best to bring the translation as near to the original as possible.  I am not, in any sense claiming any comparison, let alone superiority over Sri Aurobindo's translation above.  As I mentioned, it is just another translation that sprung up while thinking about the above.

To thee I bow, O mother

Rich with sweet streams, fruits so fresh,
And cool with fragrant mountain breeze,
And green, O mother, so rich and lush
To thee I bow, O mother

O thou, with nights tingled by moonlight bright
Adorned with woods blooming,
With those soft smiles and words so sweet,
Comforting with bounties

To thee I bow, O mother

Click here for the Kannada version of the above article.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A 'rub' with an India-Born-American-'Pardesi'

(This has no relation with the scores of Indians who have built their own respectable lives in US or elsewhere in the world and living a dignified life - some of whom are my good friends; this is about an Indian soul that sold itself to America and wishes that the unsold 'Indian' souls did not exist)
Place: The dining hall of a decent Indian hotel
Occasion: A luncheon hosted by Pardesi
Audience: 8-10 strong group of friends and relatives, with myself honored with the fortune of sitting next to the host :o

Pardesi: You have been abroad sometimes?

Self: Yes, a few times , , a couple of times to and a few times to country...

Pardesi: Oh okay. So you have visited all... kind of... 'laid back' countries, 'easy' countries... eh?

Self: hahha... hmm

Pardesi: Have you been to Germany?

Self: No

Pardesi: Germany is very tough country. Equally tough is America. They are workaholic. They work from morning 8 till evening 8.

Self: Is it? But I heard they usually start early like 8-830 and close by 5-530?

Pardesi: (with an emphasis) No no no no... you are mistaken. They may appear to close by 5 but they actually continue working :o

Self: Is it? hmm

Pardesi: And in America they are very particular about time, you know? 10o Clock means 10o clock only.

Self: O, yes, I know. I always appreciate it...

Pardesi: Really? But here in your India, 10 may become 11, 12, 1 or even 2.

Self: Sometimes, yes, we do skip, but much depends.

Pardesi: No, it's always. You must have heard about IST (Indian Standard Time)... HA HA HA HA HAAA...

Self: (smile)

Pardesi: Many of my Indian relatives are settled abroad, I always prefer to meet them in America or some European country, rather than in India, you know? It's always convenient to meet them there than here.

Self: Hmm... (after a long pause) Which is your native?

Pardesi: I was... er... born and brought up here in a place called Hubli, but I studied for sometime in a place called Mysore and then in Bangalore before I went to Mumbai on my first assignment and then to Delhi before I flew to England and then to America.

Self: Oh, that's nice. Then you must be speaking Kannada at home.

Pardesi: (with a straight face), hmm, rarely, a little, broken, you know? But we speak a lot of Marathi, Gujarati, and even Hindi at home - when we feel bored with English that is.

Self: Where do you live in America


Self: Hmm.. I have many good friends around there. Must be having a good Kannada community there right?

Pardesi: Hmm... we have a good South Indian community, but we don't discriminate between Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and all. We all celebrate Onam as well as Pongal.

Self: You must have attended that famous Kannada convention... AKKA

Pardesi: Yeah, I have heard about that, but have not been there
Self: Hmm.. (long silence)

Pardesi: You know? There's a big myth even among Americans, that Indian guys are very intelligent, genius etc... But I have never bought that, you know?

Self: Is it?

Pardesi: I asked a few Indian professors also here in America "Is it true?"


Pardesi: They said no, that's an absolute nonsense. Where is the originality in India? No significant inventions, no significant contribution to science and technology, no significant discovery, nothing. They are just using and supporting what the West invented. They are in demand just because of cheap labor. Now that also they are losing out to China etc.

Self: That may be true as far as IT-BT is concerned, but India is not all about IT-BT...

Pardesi: (Little agitated) What else? What else, you tell me. But for IT-BT who would even look up to India?

Self: Hmm... (long silence). You are also in IT?

Pardesi: No no no... (Proudly) I am a scientist.

Self: Oh, is it?... Then, who does the inventions for you there?

Pardesi: What? (quickly recovering), Well, not all Indians are like that. There are exceptions, you know?

Self: hmm (smile and long silence)

Pardesi: You know what? Americans are always straight forward in their outlook and talks. They don't like round about talks. But Indians are never like that. They just beat around the bush - never speak out openly.

Self: Hmm... sometimes that helps, you know?

Pardesi: How?

Self: Certain things can't be told straight on the face, especially to our own brethren :)

Conversation broke, as the lunch was served - A long, silent and filling one.