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The Other Stream

Sushma Bhatnagar

By Rabindranath Tagore . Translated from the Bengali by Prayag Shukla
Vaagdevi Prakashan, Bikaner, 2002, pp. 267, Rs. 200.00

By Harprasad Das . Translated from the Oriya by Shankarlal Purohit and Girdhar Rathi
Rajkamal Prakashan, New Delhi, 2001, pp. 257, Rs. 350.00

By Paash . Translated from the Punjabi by Chamal Lal
Adhaar Prakashan, Panchkula, 2002, pp. 272, Rs. 250.00


Critics, like Benedeto Croe, have not taken very kindly to translation that has in fact helped bridge language gaps. During the Raj the vernacular text was translated by the colonizers to tighten the noose around the native psyche. However, in the postcolonial era translation has become instrumental in discovering the spring of the Indian soul by enabling the thought perceptions expressed in one stream leap into the others. Here we take a look at three translations from three different streams, Bengali, Oriya, and Punjabi, into Hindi.   In his letter to William Rothenstein, dated 20th April 1927, Tagore termed Edward John Thompson’s comments on his works as absurd and remarked, ‘How I wish you had known Bengali’. Tagore’s dream is realized. His Geetanjali, the Song Offering, has been translated into Hindi in verse form straight from Bengali by Prayag Shukla, a poet of very fine taste and sensibility. The Bengali text appears in the Devanagri script in the diglot pattern.   Recently UBS has also published the English translation of Tagore’s Geetanjali but the original text in the Bengali script is of little use to the non-Bengali readers. Shukla’s rendition is of great worth as it provides an opportunity to the Hindi belt to have a taste of the original Bengali along with the translation. Shukla’s rendition has been quite faithful, so much so that he has tried to retain the Bengali words and phrases close to Hindi.   Geetanjali has been translated umpteen times into Hindi but Shukla’s translation is unique in many respects. For one, he has not depended upon English translations of Tagore, which moreover, are prose, and at times, mere paraphrase. Abstaining from banal paraphrasing and free verse, Shukla has preserved the rhyme, rhythm, metre, and melody. For another, melody is the greatest challenge for any translator matching the symphony of Rabindra Sangeet, and Shukla has taken up the gauntlet. Excellence of form apart, this translation provides an insight into the inner world of the great thinker poet so often misunderstood.   Among the myriad myths associated with this doyen of Bengali literature, one was that Tagore, with his anglicized surname, was a poet of English romantic literature, his Bengali writings being an afterthought. His famous critic, Reverend Thompson, calls him an English romantic poet, who: …obstinately and inconveniently insisted on writing in an exotic tongue… [William Radice, Rabindranath Tagore: Selected Poems, p. 9]   The present ...

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