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Makers Of A Canon

Prem Kumari Srivastava

By Jayant Parmar . Translated from the Urdu by Nishat Zaidi 
Sahitya Akademi, Delhi, 2014, pp. 160, Rs. 150.00

By Nishat Zaidi
Sahitya Akademi, Delhi, 2014, pp. 135, Rs. 50.00


As a curious reader scans the titles of the poems listed on the contents page of the poetry collection of Jayant Parmar’s Pencil aur Doosri Nazmein translated by Nishat Zaidi as Pencil and Other Poems, an unsurprising summation ensues: poems related to nature with images from the flora and fauna; ghazals and nazms, predictably expected from an Urdu poet; then poems that are dedications to persons; poems about persons and poems related to places and travel. The reader is reassured of the obvious terrain to traverse. Comforted, the process of reading the poems begins. By and by, as the poems unravel, conventions regarding poetry explode and familiar pathways disappear. By the time the reader gets to the 7th poem, he/she is sufficiently shaken and alert to the poetic muse of Jayant Parmar. A collection of 98 poems, led by two (rather unusual) forewords by Gopi Chand Narang and Balraj Komal respectively, and a well pronounced introduction by the translator, Nishat Zaidi, Pencil and Other Poems has reached a wider readership. It does not matter if in the process of translation some gentle nuances of the source language, Urdu, are muted or meanings get a little convoluted and expressions change. It is true that several translators often express their inability to translate the ethos of the source language, for example, in the context of the translation of the Satsai of the famed poet Bihari, the nineteenth century Irish Indologist Sir George Grierson had some sage advice, ‘don’t even try’ (quoted in Vanita, 2015, 59). He wrote, ‘Twenty years ago I began to translate him into English… I have only been convinced of the impossibility of the adequate performance of the task at my hands… (a)s any attempt of mine would spoil the original by weakening its conciseness’ (p. 59). Today, the reader of a translated text is aware of the limitations of translation. Curiously another ‘Foreword’, this time a poem, opens the anthology. One seems to wonder, is it really a foreword to the poems to come? Will it unravel the various shades and moods of the poems and uncover the mysteries of life experiences? ‘Foreword’ begins with the concept of sharing, encompassing the notion of partnership, collective aspirations and commune responsibility. The poet calls upon his readers to travel, dream, aspire, and speak with him through words and speech. As we read further, we find that the entire collection becomes ...

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