Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reaching the Crescendo

A book of translations by Abid Ahmad


Crescendo is the translation by Abid Ahmad, of the select poems of Sheikh Khalid Karrar, a promising Urdu poet from Jammu and it is good fortune of a poet if he gets an able translator. I was moved by the translation that flows effortlessly and reads refreshingly original. A great transcreation of poems representing diverse themes with a good introduction by the translator make the book as much a creation of translator as the poet.
Crescendo is a mirror of our age with its doubts, anxieties, aspirations, disillusionments, and frustrations, passions and dreams.
Beautifully and often wittily well-crafted words and images weave a magic that transports one to a different world for a time being. The poet has something to say and the translator has amply gifted imagination to help him say it with both force and poetic beauty.
Crescendo seems to be a voice managing to fight the dark night of the soul with faith. One wonders how much the poet has assimilated of life’s woes but still managed to be a Man – defiant, undaunting. Perhaps the translator has found echo of his own complex inner journey through the Purgatory of despair that modern education brings to religiously sensitive heart and mind. Crescendo is existentialist in its approach – it seeks to come to terms with the void – captured brilliantly in the poem “Void” – that seems to walk with us everywhere. “Plaintalk” is a plain talk on man’s inability to find God’s phone number to clarify the mess that life often seems to be in. The book is about Kashmir also. “Life lying in an isolation ward” speaks of day to day experiences for many victims of current trouble. In a brilliant stroke of wit the poet says that our bodies are used as laboratories. “Curfew, I and he” expresses a novel thought about now a familiar experience. The poet brilliantly weaves the tapestry of images on such otherwise hazy subjects as meaning in “Meaning.” Mysticism echoes in many poems. “Itinerary” reminds us of traditional Sufi poets in theme and dares to state its conclusion much more boldly than we usually find in Sufis. “I have become a god/unto myself.” However he is still in search of the elusive self. He is yet to arrive, if we use mystical terms. He finds no anchor, no balm anywhere and betrays his mystical intuitions that redeem him at other moments. Vacillating faith and agonizing doubt is evident in many poems including the one titled “Where am I.”  The poet appears to be neither traditional nor modern but hovering in a half way house of hazy belief and suspected doubt.  “Winter” is one of the most beautiful poems celebrating ordinary happenings, not unlike Zen mystics, whose only prayer ritual consists of drinking qehwa in silence. The poet in “December” ingeniously compares life’s unfulfilled dreams and ambitions to “thousands of shoulders, graceless/dead bodies” on which he sees himself sitting.
The poet is quite modern in his sensibility and beliefs but what prevents him from being a dry secular modernist is his mystical faith in himself and loftiness of his station. Although quite conscious that ours is an age of demythologization when medieval enchanted landscape of fairies and supernatural tales is gone forever, as in the poem “Jinnie” he knows how to enjoy newer consolations, how to see the sacred undercover of secular or material miracles like computers.
One is reminded of Camus' of The Myth of Sisyphus in such poems as “Wilderness,” “Growth” and “Void”. The poet is a postmodernist, existentialist, mystic all rolled into one. In “Computer and I” he looks at the problem of time (as memory) and explores the possibility of formatting himself – what an image to use! – but concludes that it is not possible as “He has kept the password of the set up with himself” The poem “No one is here” is a serious musing  on the drama of being and nothingness.
I congratulate the translator for discovering the poet, making an exquisite selection of poems to be translated and equally exquisite and brilliant translation.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Translating the essence Abid Ahmad's translation of select Urdu poems of Shiekh Khalid Karrar is a treat to read

Translating the essence
Abid Ahmad's translation of select Urdu poems of Shiekh Khalid Karrar is a treat to read

It is my considered view that in choosing to translate 57 select poems of the contemporary Urdu poet Shiekh Khalid Karrar into English, Abid Ahmad has taken up a challenging task that he has accomplished successfully. In providing his own foreword to the volume of the translated poems, which in fact serves as a fine critical introduction to the Urdu poet as well, he convinces the reader of having assimilated the cultural content of the original poems. It is gratifying further that Abid is well aware of the developments in literary theory across the globe in relation to what is specifically traditional, modernist and postmodernist about literature. Not being myself very conversant with Urdu literature nor having gone through a single original  poem of Karrar, I have a special word of praise for Abid for rendering the Urdu poet accessible to me as a reader through his critical observations on him in the foreword.
            How precisely do I rate Abid Ahmad’s translation? I have no hesitation in saying that the translated pieces in English stand out as original poems in English. I may have some curiosity lurking in my mind about Karrar as the source /original poet, but I enjoyed Abid’s renditions as poetry in its own right. Reading most of the poems in English translation closely, I find them “difficult” as Eliot would have it. He is of the view that good poems are enjoyed before they are understood. Abid’s translations convince me of his creativity as rooted in his originality.
            It is pertinent to state here that in recent years translation studies have gained special prestige in the Indian Universities. In some Universities in the country, higher degrees are being awarded on the basis of good translational work, in lieu of research. In fact, English as a link-language has assumed an important role; it is equally important for out cultural expansion across the globe. In consequence, literary translation from various regional languages into English has received a special impetus at the national level. Such translation, in my view, is in itself an art rather than a mere craft - though an art with a difference. The translator has to work within some constraints; he cannot have all the freedom of a creative artist. The task becomes all the more difficult when it is poems that are to be rendered into English. Desirably the translator should be in full command of the source language and equally competent in handling the target language. He should as well be conversant with the related literatures. In other words, he has got to be both bilingual and bicultural in order to accomplish a difficult task. The translation should be literary rather than literal; it should be somehow faithful to the text and desirably “free” or creative in some degree too. Judged from this point of view, I find Abid’s English translations readable, imaginably faithful, and at the same time, literary and creative. It strikes me as well that there is no mismatch between the Urdu poet Karrar and Abid as the translator.
            Finally, to give the readers a slice/foretaste of the volume in question, I quote, as an example, the poem “I am not at peace” hereunder:

I am not at peace.
The sand
Settled for thousands of years
Is stirred up
With hooves of
Pacing steed.
Fleets of ship float on sea
Flags flutter on deck
Noise and mayhem rend heavens asunder
Ramparts fall
Saddles tumble down
The fortified city is afire
Lines are drawn
Bugles blown
Iron gates opened
Sand, soldiers, city, masses, smoke
Of thousands of years
Is flowing within me.

            Image after image is thrown up by the poet here to evoke disorders, destruction and conflict – all anti-thetical to peace. As the reader goes through the poem closely, he can perceive the inwardness of all the details piled up. He can well appreciate that the poet is aware of a history of thousands of years of trouble. The lines are suggestive of war and conflict – of a deep inward commotion holding the poet in its grip. The title of the poem is appropriate to the contents.
            Likewise, the poem titled “Meaning” is, to my mind, postmodernist in theme – suggestive of “indeterminacy” of meaning:

I mean I
I am what I wasn’t
I am what I’m somewhere
Am I not what I was
And what I would be?
I mean I
I’m the one who had hit me
I’m that who had paid me blood money
You are somewhere
I’m not
I’m what is
But what’s not
 I don’t know
 If I am
 I’m not
I was somewhere
I am the meaning
I’m the meaninglessness.

  Drawn to Abid Ahmad’s writings as a budding scholar of English, I perceive in him a writer of immense promise and potential. He is surely going to make a mark nationally and, hopefully, internationally too.
            A welcome and enjoyable volume of translations, indeed.
Lastupdate on : Tue, 25 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Mecca time
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Translating the essence Abid Ahmad's translation of select Urdu poems of Shiekh Khalid Karrar is a treat to read . BY PROF. A. N. DHAR

Translating the essence

Abid Ahmad's translation of select Urdu poems of Shiekh Khalid Karrar is a treat to read

 BY PROF. A. N. DHARTranslating the essence Abid Ahmad's translation of select Urdu poems of Shiekh Khalid Karrar is a treat to read . BY PROF. A. N. DHAR

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sheikh Khalid Karrar's third Urdu poetic collection "WOROOD".شیخ خالد کرار کا تیسرا شعری مجموعہ"وُرود"

Crescendo- English Translation of the select poems of Sheikh Khalid Karrar by Abid Ahmad

Crescendo- English Translation of the select poems of Sheikh Khalid Karrar by Abid Ahmad

Sheikh Khalid Karrar’s Poetry 

            Khalid Karrar has emerged as one of the potent voices of Urdu poetry in the state. Having established himself as one of the most creative voices in the spectrum of contemporary Urdu poets, Khalid has excelled in certain respects. His verses are characterised by his unique diction, idiom and a sensibility that he has hauled from the smithy of his acutely personal experiences.
            Khalid approaches life at his own terms. He does not let it dictate. That is why, one sees both hope and resolve in the face of challenges in his poetry. After going through his poetry, one is really baffled by how he uses words in such a way that they become unconventional without breaking from the convention.This lends a uniqueness to his creative impulse.
            Another unique feature of Karrar’s poetry is that he mediates between the tradition and the modernity. He belongs to a generation that connects the accomplished with the neophyte. But how he blurs the line of demarcation between the two extremes is remarkable. He mediates the two without being partisan to any. That way he is both - tradition as well as modernity. Conversely, he is none.
            Khalid belongs to a generation which understands creativity in its contemporary sense.His sensibility, though deeply rooted in religion and tradition, supersedes the conventional understanding of the both. His words command a different meaning from the imagery that otherwise have had a very superficial meaning. He delves deeper and hauls meanings that puzzle and, in fact, torment. The title of his collection Sawa Neze Pe Sooraj itself is suggestive of how unconventionally he looks at an idiom that would conventionally be used in a very restricted sense.
            Karrar uses metaphors, idioms, expressions, images and similes that are unique to him. He uses them to convey his contemporary understanding of life and its issues as imagined in the age of postmodernity. He profusely borrows his idiom from the contemporary times. Google, extra-terrestrial life, aliens, planets, are used at par with Aladdin, wilderness, void, desert, barrenness. In fact, these are the powerful metaphors that he uses to translate the meaning of contemporary realities into his verses.
            The words that Karrar takes from science and information technology make his reading very interesting. What was earlier perceived to be beyond human ken has become much easier to comprehend. The myth of Aladdin’s genie can be very easily understood now as we have the “google genie” at our disposal these days.
            The concept of double consciousness, extra terrestrial life, aliens, the themes that are by and large untouched in our poetry as yet, have been artistically incorporated by Karrar in a way that does not affect the quality of the content. By way of using these words in his poetry, Karrar has paved the way for integrating science and art, two streamswhose traditional dichotomy has spawned two separate ways of expression of human genius. In contemporary times of super-specialisation, there is all the more need to integrate human experiences of diverse fields into an organic whole to make them more relevant and vital for the betterment of human existence.
            In fact, Karrar’s diction, terminology and understanding are cosmic. His understanding of issues is also cosmic in so far as it makes more sense when read in relation to cosmic and physical sciences. For this purpose, he borrows most of his terminology from the physical world which is more palpable, wholesome and  less abstract.
            Karrar’s choice of genres is very contemporary and is born out of his post-structuralist understanding of language. At times, he sounds a postmodernist in his own right without subscribing to its institutional existence. We see the same fragmentation, hybridity of genres, loss of a linear poetic narrative, blurring of generic distinctions which are considered to be the hallmark of the postmodernism. But Karrar, while vouching for the same in an impeccable manner, never resorts to dull and drab postmodern poeticism. He has used certain new genres in Urdu poetry. In fact he is in theavant-garde of the modern Urdu tradition for using rhymeless Gazal which is an oxymoron of sorts. Traditionally we would never imagine Gazal without metre and rhyme. Karrar has written some beautiful metreless Gazals that sound like verse libre but have a strong tinge of the lyricism of Gazal.
            Alongside living in contemporary reality, Karrar believes in age-old and tested universal human values. He is fully aware of his relation with naked wretched miserable creatures of distant deserts of Africa. He is equally aware of human bond that connects the humans world over. He sees beauty in apparent ugliness. He sees beauty in children who have never seen childhood due to their acute penury. He sees his connection to the deprived lot whose lives are nothing but indices of woes and misery. That makes him seek his awareness of human bond so that collectively they would work for the betterment of human lot. This hope pervades his poetic collections.
            Karrar uses some powerful metaphors that are loaded with infinite interpretations of meaning. Some of the metaphors he uses are water, desert, barrenness, void, blood, names of communities like Israelites, Kashmir, butterflies, wilderness, etc. He uses the symbol of water to convey the truth that meanings bubble forth even from the bare landscape of life as it has come to mean in contemporary sensibility.
            His unconventional treatment of certain conventional themes is also his mark of distinction. Love, loss, pain, nostalgia, hopelessness, infidelity are the themes he treats in his poetry but one is at times shocked to see how he can bore through their superficial meanings and arrive at a point where the reader sees its contemporary meanings.
            So far, Karrar has published one collection of short stories and three collections of his Urdu poetry. He started his career as a short story writer and first published his collection of short storiesAkhri din se pehle (1999) which was warmly welcomed in the literary circles. Later he came out with his three collections of Urdu verse Aanghan Aanghan Pat Jar (2000), Sawa Neze Pe Sooraj (2007) and Worood (2010). 
            Khalid Karrar is surely going to be a part of the “great tradition” of the Urdu poetry.
            This collection carries translation of fifty seven poems and metreless Gazals from his two latest collections Sawa Neze Pe Sooraj and Worood. I feel immensely privileged to place these translations before the English- knowing readers both within and outside the state and even beyond.
                                                                                                                                                                                 Abid Ahmad                                                                            

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Keeping Things Whole -Mark Strand

Keeping Things Whole
In a field
 I am the absence
 of field.
 This is
 always the case.
 Wherever I am
 I am what is missing.

 When I walk
 I part the air
 and always
 the air moves in
 to fill the spaces
 where my body's been.

 We all have reasons
 for moving.
 I move
 to keep things whole.
-- Mark Strand