Martin Lings, a profoundly insightful scholar and a Shakespearian authority who lately converted to Islam to become Abu Bakar Siraj Ud Din noted “poetry is not written with ink but with the heart’s blood”. Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi in his literary essay “Mera Nazariy-e-funn” notes very pertinently that the primary concern of poetry is to translate man’s emotional landscape into words. Language expresses lesser than it conceals and because of the intrinsic uniqueness inherent to every language in terms of metaphors, structures, analogies and parables, the works of art pose insurmountable odds in any attempt that aims their translation. Pavan Verma, while translating Gulzar very candidly subscribes to the opinion that ‘translators are traitors’. Poetry thrives on emotional flashes and derives life blood from feelings that are exclusive to the poet. All this brings the very exercise of poetic translations under interrogative scanner. One is repeatedly bound to ask questions like what it is that is really being translated – the essence of poetry or the garb of words in which essence has been temporally captured. Well the translator that even succeeds in translating words properly deserves all applause and appreciation, unlike Ranjeet Hoskote who has done gross scholarly injustice while rendering classical Lal’e Ded into post modern English idiom . The index of translators who have succeeded in translating poetry both in essence and in form is indeed too succinct. Thus one recalls Fitzgerald, Coleman Barks, Nicholson, Ghulam Rasool Nazki (Translating Lal’e Vaakh into Urdu equivalents) and Ghulam Nabi Khalyal (His rendering of Khayyam remains archetypal) etc. To this list the name of Ghulam Nabi Haleem can be added without exaggeration. His Kashmiri rendering of Amrita Preetam’s poetry into Kashmiri has projected him as one of the erudite translators. The work of translation as it stands titled “Saffar” combines in it the translator’s deep understanding of Amrita Preetam, his command over Kashmiri diction, his craftsmanship of infusing life into seemingly dud and dead words. The translation is by most of the literary standards not merely successful but very close approximating the ‘ideal’.
Amrita Preetam and her poetry remains one of the assertive, multilayered and impressive voices in recent Punjabi literature. Building upon the legacy that stretches from Baba Farid right down to Khwaja Ghulam Farid, where poetry was mainly a vehicle of mystical, vertical and transcendental experiences, Amrita, combining these characteristics of Punjabi idiom and its dialects, with a sense socio-cultural consciousness she succeded in creating a poetic episteme genuinely descreibed as “neo-mystical, trans-horizontal and semi-vertical”. All these epithets describe the fact that Amrita, while weaving herself and her experiences into her poetry is not submerged by the tragedies she witnesses in her immediacy, but rather, she rises above in the spirit of falcon to bring flashes of inspiration and optimism that can deliver perpetual hope in times of utter despondency. Her canon “Aaj Aakha Waaris Shah Nu” means to Punjabi poetry what “Toba Tek Singh” means to Urdu prose. Rebuilding upon stabs of ‘independence’ that brought much suffrengis and slavery, she speaks in humanistic spirit and her voice seems to be representative of each of that conscious soul who are pained at human sufferings. She’s on rebellion, but rebels her ownself. She doesn’t speak of revolution and change as do Faiz and others. But a sub-textual understanding of her poetry reveals that she’s a revolution within and seeking a change within the changeless self. She speaks of love but not as mannifestedly as her contemporary Parveen Shakir. Her poetry doesn’t open up once like an editorial message or a columnists commentary but, reveals itself, layer by layer, till the reader discovers at the bottom of all layers a voice that’s no different the voice of an innocent child, whose babblings produce multifarious feelings among listeners till one discovers that at the bottom of these babblings, child is simply asking for his mother. To find parallels to her poetry one needs to turn to Gulzar’s trivenis and Nida Fazili’s dohas, for all these lifting the veil of appearance have by and large succeded in conceiving the underlying unity. Sufi, humanistic Bhakti or mystic tradition, (whatever nomenclature you love) is common to all of them.
Having said so much about Amrita and the legacy her poetry rests on, it should have posed additional posers to Haleem while rendering Amrita into Kashmiri, but he has so wonderfully maneuvered this challenge that one can’t, but remain awestruck full of praise and appreciation for Haleem’s literary skills that he has poured in while undertaking this translation. This book of translation spanning 160 pages published by Sahitya academy is such an immense contribution to Kashmiri vernavular that its worth will be well gauged by scholars, students and critics down the line. I can’t pluck the samples from this book to demonstrate readers the subtleties of translation, for each page, each poem and each line of the book is an exemplary demonstration of scholarship in itself. The translator while rendering unfamiliar Punjabi structures into their Kashmiri equivalents has displayed ace learning skills. He hasn’t only refurbished the translation with easy, well understood and beautiful Kashmiri equivalents but, he has all the while stayed fully conscious as not to mar Amrita’s originality and has throughout maintained his loyalty to the essence of the text. Haleem is indeed Amrita’s Kashmiri mouthpiece. The grandeur of any translatory work is to be assessed on the premise that has author himself written in the language of translation how closely the translation at hand would have approached it. Based on this premise, has Amrita lived to see Haleem’s translation she would have fearlessly said that yes this is how I would have written had I written in Kashmiri. Even the heading of poems as adopted by Haleem can give a reader an idea as to his translation aesthetics. Some of the titles are “Sawal-I-Khuda Chui”, “Tarak Chi Wanan”, “myon pattah”(This one is really outstanding when you evaluate it vis a vis the Punjabi original ). I have always maintained a cynical attitude towards poetic translations, but to Haleem goes the credit of changing my perspective to the extent that I came to write down this piece , to sing with Haleem, Amrita’s song of devotion:-
“Be chas, Chaen’I astaaneh tuj’i
T’e chaani dargahi paeth chum
Garri khanji dazun (Poem: Sai Baba)
Amir Suhail Wani is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell # 7006003217