What inspired you to translate Dinkar’s epic Urvashi in English?
In 2002, I fell from the stairs and fractured my left leg. I was advised a few months’ rest. This gave me the opportunity to read this book by Dinkar. But when I read it, I was astounded at the store-house of high imagination exhibited in depicting the characters of this epic and the natural beauty.
Therefore, I thought that this treasure that was hidden in Hindi language should be brought into the open through an English translation, so that many more readers are able to enjoy it. Urvashi in fact dwells in the highest imagination where beauty, intellect, romance, practicality, nature, blessing and curse of life all coalesce into one. She is: ‘Kindler of love in accomplished sages, Igniter of fires in the blood of Gods, Living charm of Venus, grace of the goddess of fortune, the object of desire of all mankinds, Beloved of the moon, the ultimate offering of flame at the hands of the God of love.’
How difficult was it to translate the work?
It was difficult no doubt because even in Hindi I had to often consult dictionaries. But while translating, I had the feeling that some stream is flowing by itself. I have never revised a single line. Even Dinkar ji has said that new poems would not need patch work of choosing words and doing some type of inlaying. The thoughts must gush out. It can happen only when there is intense concentration of ideas. As far as the language of poems is concerned, the path runs very near to the path in prose. No inlaying and patching.
How much has your work, over a long period of time, helped in shaping your thoughts?
Literature has a tremendous effect on the thought process. This is the age of science. But the character of mankind has not changed a lot from the time when men were dwelling in caves. Means have changed. Science and technology can do more destruction if not tempered with literature and arts. Science and technology has brought abundance in means but the pond of the heart is dry. No lotus there. Only anger, hate, poison. When Science and rechnology would pose a threat to devour mankind, literature and arts would come to the rescue. Unfortunately, in the course-curricula, mostly subjects of only commercial values are being taught. The emphasis on teaching those subtle things which are for the heart is missing.
Who are the other writers you look up to?
The age of poems is getting lost due to various reasons. But what poems can do is difficult to accomplish otherwise. I like Mahadevi Verma, Maithilisharan Gupta, Nepali, Bachchan, Nirala, Jaishankar Prasad, Rabindranath, Subhadra, Makhan Lal Chaturvedi and others.