Burning Ground :Singed
Coal tarnishes not only the soul of the contractors,
bureaucrats and labour union leaders but also turns them into inhuman
tyrants. The unholy trinity of these three groups dictates and decides
the fates of roofless, penniless villagers who have no alternative but
to yield and live a precarious life - always on the precipice of doom
Interwoven in the text is the conspiracy to convert an accident
case into a ‘missing’
case to evade compensation claims. Rahmat Mians ‘disappearance’
leaves its tragic impact on the aged father, wife and a
child who are waiting in vain for the missing person to arrive.
Interunion rivalries and feuds have also been authentically described.
Gaddi brings us a world where idealism is swallowed by realities of
day-to-day survival. Majumdar's idealism triumphs after taking the
toll of his own life. He dies without surrendering his soul.
The blurb brings to our notice Jai Ratan's credentials as a
translator. One of the finest and the most prolific of translators
from Urdu to English, a Sahitya Akademi awarded translator,
it says, who has been credited with several works. The
translator uses several colloquial expressions in italics such as sala,
dhora, pahalwans, qur, qilli-danda, basti in the body of the text
and provides their meanings in the form of footnotes wherever these
expressions occur in the text.
He uses the distorted nativised expression of the word
‘theatre’ viz. thater
to show how foreign expressions get assimilated in vernacular
languages. Yet, at the same time his explanations are not
satisfactory, are even incorrect. For example, jethji (193) is
an expression that a woman uses exclusively for her husband's elder
brother. The footnote shows it as ‘elder brother’ (here
brother-in-law). Now both of these explanations are misleading. Can a
husband call his wife's elder brother as jethji? The correct
expression in fact should have been ‘husband's elder brother’. The
same slip is evident in the expression de-war (199),
which translates allegedly as ‘brother-in-law’. This also should
have been glossed as ‘husband's younger brother’. If one is using
the vernacular expression sala [a mild term of
abuse - meaning ‘brother-in-law (wife's brother)’], one should use
the plural form sale and not salas. This
becomes a hybrid expression. On page 84 Khatunia, a Muslim woman says,
Alif Zabra which does not seem to be appropriate even if she is
an illiterate - it should be Alif jabar – aa. A child might
be parodying Alif-be-pe (97) but the later half Ma Mufgi
Lade is unintelligible. The country-made revolver has been
described as phatpatu (p 265), which seems to be slang.
Jai Ratan has
tried to retain the colloquial touch while translating. 'How you
joke, Ansari Saheb” (p 21) may not be a totally appropriate
translation of "Kyoun majak karte hain”?.
Hindi/Urdu proverb "paani me rehkar magar se bair"
loses its implication in the "one who wants to live in the
river should not fall foul of the crocodile” (p 33).
These are academic nuances. These intricate oddities
notwithstanding, Jai Ratan's translation is an honest, convincing and
engrossing rendering of the original text.
A.G. KHAN PhD