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Treatise on Urban Lives

Gurpreet K. Maini

Translated by Vandana Singh
National Book Trust, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 216, Rs. 95.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 12 December 2006

Ever since the translation of indigenous literature, mainly into English, was initiated almost a decade ago, it has triggered off reams of publications, and gradually evolved into a specific genre. Obviously, this process has been a tremendous success as publishing houses of renown have made forays into this sphere, though often glossing over prominent credits to the key player, i.e. the translator. The National Book Trust deserves credit for this well packaged, composite book on Hindi translations which acknowledges the vital cog in this whole process i.e., the compiler and translator on the cover.   The translation upsurge has spawned a subtle cultural renaissance by bridging the schism between the rural/urban readership and by facilitating a convergence among various regional microcosms in the country as a wealth of literary talent unravels in English. At any rate, translations have largely been the handiwork of anglophiles, since the process of translation is not merely an elementary linguistic exercise but requires a bilingual expertise and dexterity; to capture the flavour of the colloquialisms of the terrain and the cul-tural nuances or mores imbued. This precisely defines Vandana Singh’s translatory skills as she crafts, synergizes and sieves the essence of the piece while retaining its original flavour.   This compilation amalgamates the multiple facets of the contemporary urbanized social segment, presented by a dramatis personae from this very strata. They feel emotionally inept as they physically pace ahead at breakneck speed gasping to cope with the multifarious roles they jostle with. These impressionistic pieces are not assumptions or presumptions but a treatise on urban lives. They have culminated into literary fabrications but seem like excerpts from our daily lives, the emotional turmoil and the protagonists reactions are familiar, too.   Vandana has culled her stories most appropriately as each one depicts the myriad issues and conflicts that have arisen as technology, rapid consumerism and westernization impact the urbanscape. The players in this scenario must reinvent, reassess and strategize themselves, their interactions with each other and how they relate to a habitat in flux. For instance, a pertinent issue with the technologically infused and surcharged milieu is the use of artificial insemination by childless couples. The last but certainly not the least, absorbing and moving story is ‘Third Presence’ by Rekha. The true feelings that emanate from the spouse of a woman who is artificially impregnated—“it was a cold, sterilized moment, pierced by ...

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