Tribune News Service
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
Ab bahut saalon ke baad, aleem e tanhaiyee mein,
jab lethta hoon bistar par ranjofikar mein,
rangeen nargis ki vahi tasveer
ubhar aati hai zahan mein,
yeh udasi mein meri rahat ka sabab banti hai,
mera dil jhoom uthta hai khushi mein,
aur nachne lagta hai
nargis ke saath saath
Chandigarh, September 22
Eighteenth century Romantic poet William Wordsworth’s lyrical verses will now find resonance in Urdu, courtesy retired English professor Jogendra Kaushal.
While this British poet is his muse, interestingly American poet Robert Frost’s lines “And miles to go before I sleep” from ‘Stopping by woods on a Snowy Evening’ best epitomise this grand old man’s “designs”. “I believe there is a divinity that shapes our ends,” he says quoting from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But this belies the effort that has gone into translating or rather “re-writing” Wordsworth’s epic poems in Urdu which has taken him the better part of a year of working “in earnest.”
Professor Kaushal believes this is the first time that anyone has attempted translating Wordsworth in Urdu. It is a language that is fading in India he admits, but he is optimistic about its resurgence and believes he will still reach out to “millions of people” in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi even Himachal Pradesh (where it is still used as the official language in some courtrooms he says) and Pakistan.
Born in 1928, Kaushal’s primary education was in Urdu, including the geometry and algebra, which was taught in Urdu. However, he never learnt it formally. “There is sweetness in this language so I kept learning it until I felt I was comfortable with it,” he says.
However, it was towards English literature that he veered joining Punjabi University, Patiala, as a lecturer in English where he was selected for specialisation in American literature. He finally retired as director, Correspondence Studies, where he was also monitored distance education programmes as member of a high-powered committee under the UGC and was also part of the International Council for Distance Education.
However literature remained his first love and it was an official trip to Mount Abu in 1986 where gazing at the splendour of the setting sun Wordsworth suddenly sprung to mind:
And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns
“I was quoting these lines to myself and I thought why not take them to those who have not read Wordsworth?” he said.
However, it was only in 1992 that he finally stopped working and started writing in earnest. “While students appreciate a high voltage teacher it is the adults that really need to be educated but that cannot come from politics, the teacher has to be literature,” he averred. He turned to Wordsworth for the complex lessons of life and for the universal mystical quality the verses possessed. He is now translating Frost.
“People are not interested in heavy literature. They read what they can feel in their pulse and Wordsworth and Frost are closest to this psyche,” he explains.
While it was very difficult to translate and ensure that the essence of the poems is not lost, Kaushal says the whole experience has been cathartic in fact akin to “salvation”.
Around 10 of Wordsworth’s more “significant” poems have been translated and are ready to be published. While Aligarh Muslim University has already expressed its interest, Kaushal is keen that his University takes the project up. He has moved onto translating Frost’s poems starting with the lines found on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s table on the day he passed away:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep
Until then “the consistency of the poets, their subtle philosophy and the message they hold out to mankind” which brought him to them in the first place, continue to enthrall him. After all in the words of this 79-year-old man, “I have not taught literature, I have lived it.”
Doobiya badal jo mandrate hain doobte suraj ke girad (The clouds that gather round the setting sun)
Aak jhapakte hi uske chehre ko dhak lenge (Do take a sober colouring from an eye)
Yeh maut ka manzar hota hai (That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;)
Besasakta keh uthta hun ek aur sitara toota, Ek aur azeem ulshan daur khatam hui (Another race hath been, and other palms are won)
(Lines from Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood)