Wednesday, 20 April 2016

April ho ek motlobi muino

-Brian Mendonça

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
                                    -T.S. Eliot

Of all the lines of poetry I am familiar with, the ones above by T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) are among the most loved. However I’ve often wondered over the wisdom of the opening lines of the poet’s magnum opus The Wasteland (1922).

The mesmeric lines which read as a spell, an incantation, seemed to hide within its kernel the seed of truth of all existence. Spring has the ability to recall memories which have been dulled by time. Yet the gaiety of the universe at this time is tempered by the awareness that desire and youth are fleeting. It is an appropriate opening to a long poem written in the aftermath of the first world war in Europe. Observing the self-rejuvenating cycle of life, Eliot at 34 is unable to exult as he is no more the same man as before.

In India with drought conditions looming in neighbouring states, April could well be the cruellest month. For students appearing for their exams, they would say ditto. For parents of small children in kindergarten who have their little ones at home who turn the house upside down, it definitely is the cruellest month -- they have to take care of them for the rest of the holidays! 

April is the cruellest month when we remember those who have left us on a Summer’s day in April. I was reminded on the ‘Breakfast Show’ on 105.4 FM last Wednesday, that it was the anniversary of those who perished at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar on 13 April 1919. The people had gathered in the garden to celebrate Baisakhi - the annual festival of the Sikhs.

Though we may accept Eliot’s lines as a touchstone of great poetry, how is it relevant to us in Goa and to others in various parts of India? Are we to sit content with the universality of ‘literature’? I have not come across translations of enduring English literary texts into Konkani. This is a project worth considering. At a recent seminar in Ponani, North Kerala, what struck me were the number of texts translated into Malayalam from the original in English or Spanish. Prominent among them was Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries. There were several other titles on film and politics in translation.

Gynandra Varma translates the first four lines of The Wasteland into Oriya as:

Baisakha bada nishtura, mati-ru
Lilac phula phutai smrutiku basana sange
Misai murmusa chera-sabuku basantara barsare

In an act of Indianizing the translation, ‘April’ is replaced with the Indian summer ‘Baisakha’ and ‘Spring’ as ‘Basanta.’*

Here is a free translation of the four lines by Tadeu L.M. Gracias in Konkani. Lilac is replaced with lillies to suit the Goan context:

April, ho ek motlobi muino
Upzoita lillies sukhe zomnir
Mistur korta yaadi ani anvde
Chovoita alxi pallam zori vangda.
*See Priyadarshi Patnaik, ‘Tradition, Context and Transformation: Kalapurusa and The Wasteland. Issue 66. (March-April 2016)

Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 17 April 2016. Pix courtesy

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