Sunday, December 23, 2012

Translation: Don't Go Far Off by Pablo Neruda

दूर न जा, दिन भर के लिए भी न जा, क्यूंकि,
मैं नहीं जानता कैसे कहूँ -- दिन लम्बा होता है
और मैं रहूंगा तुम्हारे इंतजार में, जैसे खाली स्टेशन 
जबकी रेलगाड़ियाँ खड़ी होंगीं कहीं दूर, सुसुप्त |

न छोड़ना मुझे एक-आध घंटे के लिए भी, क्यूंकि
तब दर्द की सारी बूंदावलियां बह निकलेंगी एक धार|
मुझमें समा जायेगा किसी घर की तलाश में भटकता
धुआं, मेरा हृदय को अटका जायेगा |

ओह! तुम्हारा साया न धूमिल हो कभी सागर तट पर 
कोरी दूरियों में न कभी फड़फड़ाएं तुम्हारी पलकें,
एक लम्हें के लिए भी न छोड़ना मुझे प्रियतमा 

क्यूंकि उस एक पल में तुम निकल जाओगी कहीं दूर,
मैं भटकता फिरूंगा सारे धरातल पर, पूछता 
क्या तुम लौटोगी? क्या तुम रहने दोगी मुझे यहाँ, मरता?
No estés lejos de mí un solo día

"No lejos de mí un solo día"
Pablo Neruda

No estés lejos de mí un solo día, porque cómo,
porque, no sé decirlo, es largo el día,
y te estaré esperando como en las estaciones
cuando en alguna parte se durmieron los trenes.

No te vayas por una hora porque entonces
en esa hora se juntan las gotas del desvelo
y tal vez todo el humo que anda buscando casa
venga a matar aún mi corazón perdido.

Ay que no se quebrante tu silueta en la arena,
ay que no vuelen tus párpados en la ausencia:
no te vayas por un minuto, bienamada,

porque en ese minuto te habrás ido tan lejos
que yo cruzaré toda la tierra preguntando
si volverás o si me dejarás muriendo.
"Don't Go Far Off"
Pablo Neruda

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --
because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Don't leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don't leave me for a second, my dearest,

because in that moment you'll have gone so far
I'll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying? 

(PS: My translation is a Hindi translation from an English translation; you can say it is twice removed from the original. I recall Neurda's poem after Tagore, probably that was written in the same spirit. I found the English translation online, and I do not know who to credit for this translation. I will love to hear comments from someone who know all the languages involved. This poem is part of a self-assigned translation project to bring some of my favorite poems (translated and otherwise) into Hindi, and as the idea is to master the process of translation over time, all criticism will help me to make better versions in future.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nacropolis by Jeet Thayil

Nacropolis by Jeet Thayil is an opiate, a page-turner, a hookah-smoke-filled exploration of Bombay through adventures in grotesque and conversations of the underbelly. The metropolis is presented as the beloved city of drug- and dream- addicts. Jeet recreates Nacropolis from a realm of nostalgia often neglected by the middle-class moralists, censored by the self-righteous white-collared archivists and invariably ignored by the anglicized writers whose familiarity with Indian multitudes on streets matches the know-how acquired by weekend foreign tourists. In Nacropolis, each page is like a new puff, each puff leads to a new insight or cough or nightmare or hiccup. In the backdrop of storytelling by sedated characters, unfold the inescapable, newsworthy events of the nineteen seventies and eighties (including riots, movies, politicians, cricket). Each event pushes the protagonists from one level of addiction to another, for it is the cocktail of politics, economics, society & religion that provides kicks sterner than any dope can deliver. This portrait of the dark-alleys on Bombay, written with a lyricism and condensation of a poet, is a brew too strong for average readers, addicted to a Bollywood reality, televised farces and to endless narratives penned by a cult of schooled writers who view the real world through tinted glasses of their high-rise, high-minded lifestyles.

Nacropolis by Jeet Thayil struts its hijra hero/heroine through smoke-filled corridors resonant with echoes of paid-sex and free-style storytelling. After Khushwant Singh's Bhagmati in his novel 'Delhi', Jeet gives Bombay her own Dimple to rule the land of hukkah and blah. Like G. V. Desani and Rushdie, Jeet offers a fantastical recreation of Indian kitsch and kaleidoscopic reality. Jeet takes a wide-lens exposure of the hitherto unlettered realms of the city, zooms into the folds of flesh that present their share of secrets and sin, fantasy and filth, joy and depravity. Though written with an intoxicating sincerity, certain passages do reach out beyond the seams of reality and fantasy; maybe that is to be expected while reading the ramblings of a feverish cast. To those who believe that chauvinistic regionalism and choice religion can be stamped onto the 'Mumbai'-dwellers, Nacropolis presents a needle-prick protest by invoking transnational deities and homegrown demons that exist and persist in the city streets.

In Nacropolis, the cast of memorable characters include a Mr Lee who escaped from China when it turned communist (and he provides a heady portrait of his nation in transition), Rashidbhai, a drugdealer whose life and business are transformed first by Dimple and later by the emergence of heroin, Rumi who is full of violence, vapor and jazz (and is a US-returned Brahmin unhappily married to a Jain), choicest hippies & junkies, and a Bengali who delights in literature and opium. By reaching back to the twenty years Jeet spent chasing opium and oblivion in his beloved Bombay, he has retrieved an ode and created an elegy to a lost world of addictions and aspirations. Like any great work of fiction, Nacropolis combines wordplay, narration, imagination, tone, music and wistfulness, to create a masterpiece that will force readers to reassess their own experiences of, and perspectives about, their cities, histories, addictions, acquaintances and memories. 

First appeared in Reading Hour, Fall 2012