By Suhas Balasubramanya
The session started with the launch of H.S. Shivaprakash’s Everyday Yogi – an English translation of his Kannada work by the panelists. Mini Krishnan, moderator for the session, opened proclaiming translations substitutes for the emotions contained in an original work of literature.
The Indian translation scene has come a long way since colonial times when translation was carried out mainly for consumption by the English, not the Indians.
Lalita Kumari, better known by her pen name “Volga,” entered the discussion by paying homage to her close and fond association with the Kannada literary world, especially the women Kannada writers who have shown her affection. Volga attributed the universal dimension her personality achieved to the translated works of the likes of Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorki, Charles Dickens, that were made available to her in Telugu. Despite having read those works both in English and her mother tongue, she preferred the translated works because reading in Telugu allowed the works to reach closer to her conscience.
Sitanshu Yashashchandra explained that mother tongues break boundaries and offer freedom in intellectual pursuits similar to the way a mother does not expect her child to stay with her forever. With regard to translated works, Yashashchandra prefers reading about “foreign” characters in his mother tongue, sans any elements of indigenization.
Shivaprakash highlighted the need to for an efficient translation system across Indian languages. Citing the Vachanas translations by A.K Ramanujam, an excellent piece in English, he bemoaned the dialogue form in the original Kannada turning into a monologue in the translation. Shivaprakash also lamented that many good Kannada writers, such as Chandrashakhara Kambara (whom he referred to as his Guru) were not fortunate enough to have good English translators. He also touched upon the nuances of translating through examples of similar words in Kannada and Tamil that actually have different meanings. He concluded that it was futile to wait for good translators. While debates surrounding translation methods continue, translations born out of collaborative ventures are the need of the hour.
Answering his own question about whom translations were meant for, Rajeevan opined that people translate works which fit their ideological requirements. Translation is a creative activity, although culture-specific details may be compromised. Every language is a nation in itself.