India-born author brings Ghalib's treasure to Americans
India-born author Surinder Deol has penned a new English translation of Mirza Ghalib's works to bring the famous Urdu poet to North Americans as also those South Asians who have lost touch with their native languages.
Deol, who worked as a World Bank staffer for nearly 25 years before turning a poet and novelist, says he undertook the task "with the objective of bringing Ghalib to those North American readers who have found Persian poets like Rumi and Hafiz interesting to read."
"That is a very large audience. And if I succeed in getting their attention, then my job is done. But I also feel that my book is useful for South Asian readers too," Deol told IANS in an interview.
Published by Penguin-Random House imprint Partridge, Deol's 378 page free verse translation of Ghalib's entire Urdu divan titled "The Treasure: A Modern Rendition of Ghalib's Lyrical Love Poetry" was released here last week.
It's not easy to understand Ghalib even for those who have a normal level of proficiency in Urdu, Deol said, but "My book makes life easy for everyone."
"If you have high school level understanding of English, you can read the whole book and get the true essence of Ghalib's poetry without any difficulty."
"The younger generation of Indians in the US and other foreign countries who do not read Urdu or Hindi scripts or can't speak the language can now enjoy India's most loved poet in a language that they speak every day," he said.
Deol said he was quite satisfied with the result of his efforts to bring Ghalib to American readers as also Indians abroad, but the key factor will be how people react to his work
"Most importantly, I have used a language that is poetic but it is not archaic. Look at the reason why Americans love Rumi in Coleman Barks' translation. It is simple, direct, and touches you at a deep personal level as you read it."
Asked what inspired him to translate Ghalib, who is considered "untranslatable", Deol said "Because I loved Ghalib, I wanted to see his work made available in a good English translation so that he gets the recognition as a great world poet."
"Since I was very impressed with Coleman Barks' free verse rendering of Rumi, I thought of using the same technique for Ghalib.
"My idea was to apply this technique on 15-20 compositions or ghazals as a creative experiment."
"But you know Ghalib's poetry is like red wine that he cherished so much. You start this work and you get intoxicated and you can't leave it." Deol said.
"The task got harder as I proceeded but by then I had become an addict.
That took two solid years of my life. But I have no regrets."
"A book like this takes much longer to find acceptance but I'm very hopeful that my rendition of Ghalib will one day become a popular text for ordinary readers as well as for students of oriental literature," Deol said.
"The Treasure" is available on amazon.com internationally and on FlipKart in India.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 24-08-2014)