Archive for October, 2008


Silences in Togetherness

   Posted by: aman    in Translation

Now this might be an absolute extrapolation but it is nagging me and this is my own blog so at the risk of being beaten by you, or you never returning to my site, allow me to suggest something:

I think the very structure of a sentence in English vs. other Indian languages suggests that English is an open language, and it assumes the possibility to step between major agents in a sentence and make the action clear, while Indian languages assume that something will always remain private between two people and the maximum they can do is surround the people but not get in between them to reveal some fundamental truth.

I do not even know if this is a correct extrapolation but I am thinking does this give a cue to the very ways in which the Western and Eastern societies and philosophies are arranged?  Rationalism vs. what is badly called Orientalism. It can go on and on … but the essential question remains: did Panini and co actually figure this out?

That language will always explore silences? And language will never be able to replace silences. Swalpa profound :)

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I give this to you

   Posted by: aman    in Translation

I see writing as an effort to make sense. Making sense, is, for me, the most fundamental human occupation because unless we know what is happening we do not know what to do. To figure out what is happening between languages while I am translating Sepia Leaves into Punjabi, I noticed something very small and maybe even inconspicuous.  

In English, if you give someone something, you say: A gave something to B. The sense I get from this sentence is that A is standing here and B is standing there, and there is a distance between them, and an object to be given, and the language (English) is filling that distance. The whole sentence falls between A and B.

In Punjabi, or Hindi, or Oriya, if you give something, you say: A to B give something. Here A and B are together and the sentence falls outside where they are standing. Wonder if that makes sense? To me it does…

What does it tell us about the differences between Indian languages and English, and the way the two kinds of languages are put together? More examples:

E: A wants to go to the market.

I: A market wants to go.

E: A loves B.

I: A B loves do.

The more I think about it, the more differences I see building out of this simple grammatical structure. Let me explore more or extrapolate more and I will keep returning. In the meantime if you think of something please tell me. I mean I know no body really reads all this stuff :)  





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Language and Reality

   Posted by: aman    in Translation

Oh! I wish you, my reader, knew Punjabi. I would have given you examples. But let me try to abstract:

When I started writing Sepia Leaves in English I realised that the dialogue did not come out anything like I could recognise as real. I worked on it and learnt from other writings that a conversation in a work of fiction does not have to be real. It should create reality. I try to do that in my writing. But now that I am translating Sepia Leaves into Punjabi I am surprised at how when I am writing a scene I can almost see it in my mind’s eye. Earlier too I could see it, but it was silent. I had to give it words. Now I see it in dolby sound.

At the same time, since the dialogue in Punjabi comes from the English version and is filtered through my  understanding of how it should create reality I am almost achieveing both: reality and creating reality. It is a sense, a sense that what I am doing works for the translation. But it is also a satisfaction that I am getting it accurately.

I learnt Punjabi very late in life. Almost when I was four or five years old. For some reason my parents wanted me to start with English and Hindi. Still, when I am doing the Punjabi I am feeling closest to the story. Closer than ever before. I now think that maybe in the English version the centuries of langauge and its politics came in between me and my writing.

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Independent Thought

   Posted by: aman    in Translation

On a whim I have started translating Sepia Leaves into Punjabi. I knew I would do it some day but I never knew I would myself suddenly start doing it. I have done about 15 pages until now and I am enjoying it.

I feel the act of translating is opening up both languages to me like never before. The reason is this: when you translate you try to find word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, expression, thought, intention, emotional content, equivalents in another language. That separates your thoughts from your expression in the primary language and it begs you to use the language in which you are translating in a way which comes closest to your thought and not in the way it is expressed in the primary language.

Your thought starts standing independent of the rules and limitations of the two languages you are using: the primary language of the text and the language in which you are translating. That puts your thought in direct contact with your subconscious disregarding the way in which one language or the other is trying to control your thinking. That frees me up, frees my thoughts. Then, I try to look for rules of the language and express the thoughts in the chosen language.

Wonderful. Indian writers who mostly function is different language spheres must try doing this. I am sure it will help the writing, whether in English or in a native language.

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