Lamp a Sabre and Other Poems by Penna Shivaramakrishna
Translated by T.S. Chandra Mouli
The Poetry Society of India,Gurugram-122002. Haryana.India. Pages:xiv+92.
Price: Rs 230 $25. (February 2021).
Many a great creative work would have lost its universal appeal and artistic fragrance had there been no mechanism called “translation.” Obviously, Tagore’s English version of Gitanjali with its foreword by W. B. Yeats made him win international acclaim. Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám, Persian to English translation in 1859 could offer the world the glimpses of Omar Khayyam’s lyricism of his quatrains. The literary world must have missed the myriad insights into the sensuousness encapsulating life, love, philosophy, spirituality, religion, of the greatest legends like Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal, Nazeer Akbarabadi, Bahadur Sha Zafar, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Suybramania Bharati, Kuvempu, Sri Sri, Sinare, Arudra, Volga, Ravuri and many more in the absence of translation. The masterpieces of global languages and the magnum opuses of regional languages would not have left an insatiable hunger for many an ardent litterateur had there been no process called translation.
Dr. Penna Venkata Shivaramakrishna Sarma’s poetic elegance and grandeur of thought as seen in his latest collection of poems entitled “Deepa Khadgam” (2008) in Telugu, a regional language of India, popularly known as the “Italian of the East” would have been quiescent, had the eminent translator, T. S. Chandra Mouli not thought of transcending the same beyond the language as well as culture of Telugu. “Deepa Khadgam” is considered the best of Penna Shivaramakrishna’s poetic creations.
The book, Lamp A Sabre, in the form of creative writing by T. S. Chandra Mouli, bears a testimony to Penna Shivaramakrishna’s poetic genius and the consummate ease that Penna’s quill enjoys regarding the expression of both Indian and Western aesthetics. It has retained the essence of the authorial intentions of the original text along with the rich imagery and symbolism. The retention of the complexity as well as obscurity marking the mystical notes is attributed to the translator’s everlasting friendship with the original poet in getting the things divulged. In tune with the postcolonial and pragmatic modes of translation practice, the translator with his immense scholarship subtly has done justice to the work.
Indisputably, the understanding as well as interpretation of signs and symbols is inconclusive without assigning any cultural dimensions and associative dynamics. At this juncture the sustained inquisitiveness may be assuaged by addressing certain pertinent queries: Is translation a text or an activity? How about the end product? And how will it derive its desired finesse at the hands of a translator? Will the text remain successful in transcending the socio-cultural boundaries in which it is created and reaching out to the remote readers? Will the author reader relationship remain apropos of the cultural heterogeneity?
The complexity in the process of translation is analogous to the competence of the translator in dealing with the various aspects; linguistic, literary, philosophical, psychological, historical and other issues of contemporaneity. The authorial intentions underlined by the quantum of sensibility, refinement, education, and cultural exposition of the translator play a vital role in determining the parameters of translatability. Roman Jakobson, the Russian theorist says, “Translation cannot be treated as the whole equivalence” and Eugene Nida in his book “Theory and Practice of Translation” thinks of prioritizing various things; form, content, grammar, prosody etc.
A translator while at work may have the tendency of incorporating or creating his/her set of values and ideals and cultural dimensions which would prove advantageous and sometimes disadvantageous. While transcending the crosscultural roots and spatial confines, the translator should avoid transgressing the cultural domain, be it consciously or unconsciously. Translation is not a mere semantic transference of meaning from one language to another but it is a cultural and literary process.
In order to render authenticity to culture specific references, certain terms like “Tambura” (Lamp A Sabre!), “Tathagatha” (Exile), “Vasudeva,” “Yamuna” (Parallel Streams) and certain terms in other poems are retained. The problem of incomprehensibility on the part of the reader would have been resolved had the translator provided either the notes or a glossary. The translator seems to have thought of the extensive use of internet while reading the book of poetry. The translator’s linguistic expertise is all pervasive even in the most complex thematic concerns.
T.S. Mouli, a poet by himself, known for his erudition, has earned the name of a sympathetic translator. Simplicity in expression and tenacity in deciphering the incongruities are the hallmarks of his works. The translator’s confession that he has enjoyed liberty in not tampering with the scheme of poems where explication needed and his candid attempt in trying to “make a poem look like a poem in English,” are sure to passivize the abject critics of translation theories. Further, one sees the original poet’s rationality, progressivism, and secularism getting translated in letter and spirit at the hands of T. S. Mouli. The sublime thoughts and the spiritual inclinations are vivid in translation.
I am a vain garland of flowers
Landing on my own shattered tomb.
- - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I am a hacked head with fading life!
You are a poem translating my incompetence. (Leaving No Trace)
“that we are grains of sand
that cling to the fabric of universe” (Casually!)
“For time continuum we are navigators” (Beloved!)
-my Soul at the end of hook! (Angler)
I am not a Bhagiratha .. . nor Gauthama the sage
just a lonely paper boat left by someone for fun! ( Leaving No Trace)
The book offers an irresistible appeal to the lovers of poetry, the subject being essentially quizzical and contemplative. It is the most comprehensive translation for a discerning reader and may remain incomprehensible for one who still nudges oneself towards a pleasure seeking pursuit of poetry. It is an initiation into journey towards self-annihilation in terms of introspection or retrospection or exploration or whatsoever kind of inspection into oneself. In deed, this is a soulful music played to the inner cores and mores. The rhythmic cadence of ‘culture and ethos’ of the original Telugu is intact in translation. The book is a mellifluous treat to the patronizing readers and sure to transcend the boundaries of all sorts. An astounding quality work of a regional language made accessible and appreciable for the global arena, Lamp A Sabre is sure to remain ever as an evocative memory in the minds of the ardent readers of poetry.