Monday, August 09, 2010

Translating from the Punjabi -- K.S. Duggal

I have been looking at an obscure volume of Punjabi poetry published in 1962, as part of a project I'm doing on South Asian progressive and modernist writing. The volume, Prayogashil Punjabi Kavita ("Experimental Punjabi Poetry," edited by Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia), has never been translated as far as I can tell.

One poem I've found particularly challenging, owing in part to the vocabulary, is by Kartar Singh Duggal. Duggal is a writer whose short stories I know well & have worked on over the years; this is the first time I've seen any of his poetry. Below are three renditions of the poem, the Gurmukhi/Punjabi, the Roman Punjabi, and finally an attempt at an English version. In some cases I had trouble getting Google's "Transliterate/Punjabi" site to render certain Gurmukhi letters, so I left those words in Roman.

Incidentally, I don't necessarily know that I love the message of this poem yet; I'm more interested in the kinds of ideas and the style of the poetry from this period.


ਫਿਰ ਆਈ ਹੈ

ਫਿਰ ਆਈ ਹੈ
ਮੁਸ ਮੁਸ ਕਰਦੀ ਹੋਈ
ਲਿਬੜੀ ਹੋਈ ਵਿਸ਼ ਨਾਲ
ਕੱਜੀ ਹੋਈ, ਢਕੀ ਹੋਈ

ਫਿਰ ਆਈ ਹੇਇ,
ਚਘ੍ਲੀ ਹੋਈ, ਚਟੀ ਹੋਈ
ਕੁਤਰੀ ਹੋਈ, ਛਿਜੀ ਹੋਈ
ਗੰਢੀ ਹੋਈ, ਤ੍ਰਪੀ ਹੋਈ.

ਫਿਰ ਈ ਹੈ
ਫੁਲਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਅੰਗ ਅੰਗ,
ਸੁਜ਼ਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਬੰਦ ਬੰਦ,
ਅਕ੍ਰੀ ਹੋਈ, ainthee ਹੋਈ

ਫਿਰ ਆਈ ਹੈ
ਪੂਰੇ ਦਿਨਾ ਦੇ ਨੇਰੇ,
ਆਲਸੀ ਹੋਈ, ਹਫੀ ਹੋਈ
ਢਾਹਿ ਢਾਹਿ ਪੈਂਦੀ ਪਈ

ਫਿਰ ਆਈ ਹੈ,
ਝਗ ਝਗ ਬੁਲੀਆ ਤੇ,
ਮੈਲ ਮੈਲ ਦੰਡੋ-ਦੰਡ,
ਕੂੜ ਦੀ ਪੰਡ ਨਿਰੀ.
ਫਿਰ ਈ ਹੈ ਫਾਈਲ
ਹਾਜਾਈ ਔਰਤ ਦੀ ਤਰਾ.




Phir Aaee Hai (written in 1962)
by Kartar Singh Duggal

phir aaee hai
mus mus karde hoee
libRee hoe vish naal
kajee hoee, DHakee hoee.

phir aaee hai,
chaghlee hoee, chaTee hoee
kutree hoee, chhajee hoee
gandhee hoee, trappee (?) hoee

phir aaee haie,
phuliaa hoyaa ang ang,
sujiaa hoeaa band band,
akRee hoee, ainTHee hoee

phir aaee hai,
pure dina de neRe
alsaaee hoee, haphee hoee
dhahi dhahi paindee pei

phir aaee hai,
jhag jhag buleeaa te,
mail mail dando-dand,
kooR dee panD niree
phir aaee hai phaaeel
harjaaee aurat dee taraa




Still She Comes

[UPDATE: I decided to remove my own attempt at a translation, as Jasdeep, in the comments put forward a much better rendering of the poem, which I'm now copying and pasting.]

again, she has come
smiling coyly
doused in venom
veiled, concealed


again, she has come
disgraced, decrepit
clipped , smacked
sewn, stitched

again, she has come
puffed up body
swollen limbs
numbed, stiffened

again, she has come
in the last days
slumberous, exhausted
collapsing

again, she has come
frothing mouth
begrimed teeth
like a pile of trash
agin, the file has come
like a fallen woman



Assuming that the meaning as rendered above is roughly correct, what is this poem actually about? What is Duggal's "message"?

7 comments:

Jasdeep said...

again, she has come
smiling coyly
doused in venom
veiled, concealed


again, she has come
disgraced, decrepit
clipped , smacked
sewn, stitched

again, she has come
puffed up body
swollen limbs
numbed, stiffened

again, she has come
in the last days
slumberous, exhausted
collapsing

again, she has come
frothing mouth
begrimed teeth
like a pile of trash
agin, the file has come
like a fallen woman

the poet has tried to use the metaphor of a woman's weariness for an old office file and lethargy of the unwelcoming recipient of the recipient
isn't it?

Amardeep said...

Thank you, Jasdeep. I like how you did it.

You also solved the greatest mystery in the poem for me -- the use of the English word "file" in the second to last line.

But if *that's* it, I have to admit the poem becomes less interesting to me. Up until this point my friends (who have been helping me) and I have been assuming he's actually talking about women -- not women as a metaphor for something.

I did come across that meaning of "Harjaee" though ("fallen woman").

Jasdeep said...

Harjaee can mean indifferent or callous or femme fatale, but fallen woman was more appropriate here

this is what i understood in my reading of the poem, i could not find it talking about women in general

and ' lethargy of the unwelcoming recipient of the recipient' should be read as 'lethargy of the unwelcoming recipient' :)

Ludhianvi said...

I wanted to point out that in the last line of the poem in the Gurmukhi script, the word "harjaee" is transliterated as "hajaee," which threw my initial reading off-track.

I completely agree with Jasdeep's reading that the poem is not talking about women in general but is using the "fallen woman" as a metaphor for the decrepit office file.

Prof.Singh, since your project examines South Asian progressive and modernist writing, I am wondering if the way this poem holds the feminization of an object and objectification of women in mutual tension can be useful in examining progressive writers' attitudes toward women.

Anonymous said...

I would also agree with Jasdeep. Amardeep, 'file' as a phenomenon is glued to Punjabi psyche apart from the red tape it represents. There is a story titled: Arzi File. There is an idiom: adding silver tyres to the file. And many more similar references are there.

Thanks

Gurtej Singh

Amardeep said...

Thanks, Gurtej and Ludhianvi.

I decided to remove my own rendering of the poem, and insert Jasdeep's, since it makes more sense to me. (I do credit Jasdeep. I would encourage everyone who reads Punjabi to go check out Jasdeep's blog, incidentally)

Secondly, Ludhianvi, I should say that as we're currently understanding it, the poem is evocative but it's also borderline misogynist. It's Duggal having a bit of metaphorical fun at the expense of sex-workers.

The next one of these we try should hopefully have a more interesting message! Maybe Amrita Pritam or Prabhjot Kaur...

Ludhianvi said...

Prof.Singh, I agree that the poem is misogynistic. I guess my question is: Is this misogynism widely symptomatic of South Asian progressive and modernist writing? Is class egalitarianism being achieved or aspired to at the expense of gender egalitarianism in the texts that you are looking at or have looked at so far? I am not an expert in the field but I am curious if you are exploring how progressive and modernist writers take up the gender question.

Great thanks for directing your readers to Jasdeep's blog. It is a wonderful addition to my daily reading!