Reaching a non-Kashmiri reader

Views from Srinagar
Dr. Zeenat Khan

ENMESHED Life (Zuv Ti Zolaan) is a novella, originally written in Kashmiri by Akhtar Mohiuddin, and translated in English by Dr Tasleem Ahmad War, Senior Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Kashmir University. Dr Tasleem has been meticulously engaged with his endeavours in translation for a long time. He has translated many Kashmiri Short Stories written by various Kashmiri writers at different times. The compilation of translated Kashmiri stories by Dr Tasleem has been published by the name of Vignettes: Short Stories from Kashmir. His journey as a translator and as a preserver of Kashmiri Literary sojourns has reached yet another milestone with the publication of Enmeshed Life. The translated novella proceeds with an informative Foreword on the life of Akhtar Mohiuddin and his important contributions to the Kashmiri Literary Canon. As this translation is particularly for the general readers who do not essentially understand Kashmiri language, Dr. Tasleem has done a perfect justice to acclimatise readers with the literary scene in Kashmir valley by presenting a terse and vivid account to start with.
Dr. Tasleem has recreated this work sensitively and seamlessly as on the very first reading of the novella there appear no lacunae in the narrative. It forms a smooth reading. The novella, Enmeshed Life, is suitably punctuated by the meanings of Kashmiri words which form part and parcel of the Kashmiri lifestyle. The translation is conspicuous in certain ways which are quite special to themselves. It befittingly serves the purpose of giving a non Kashmiri reader, a taste of Kashmiri day to day life. The vernacular words seem to be intentionally inter dispersed in the text so as to maintain the flow of narrative which is painted on the canvas of Kashmiri background. One page after the other rouses the curiosity to know what happens next in the story and nevertheless the same is maintained throughout. This trait of translation is in a way an avid proof of a good translation work. As a translator, Dr Tasleem, carries in his pen the responsibility to not only translate but also to recreate it according to needs of the contemporary reader.
The plot of the novella revolves around the story of Moghl Hanzen, a widow and Ramzan Raja, a young boy. The shades of their relationship, its dimension to both these characters and the interpretation of their relationship by the society forms an emotional saga. The psyche of the lower strata of Kashmiri villagers is fathomed in the novella through the characters like Malla Kubr, Imam Sahib and Rasool Dar. How do the social and cultural inhibitions scrutinise and complicate simple human entanglements is transparently dealt with in Enmeshed Life. The title of the novella is suggestive and clearly brings forth the picture of the complications that enshroud a human life. In the world made of social laws and rules which are very much paradoxical in themselves, every mortal being has to justify every action it takes. Be it any gender, age, or social setup, the yardstick is very much the same. This forms strength of the plot of Enmeshed Life, as it can be related by anybody belonging to any age or culture. Indeed the universal theme of cruel rendering of fragile and nameless relationships is laid bare in this novella. The contradictory nature of so called civilised societies is questionable, yet has never been questioned since the ages. Who so ever has dared to do so has met with the treatment and insult that Moghl hanzen and Ramzan raja have to go through. The character of Malla Kubr gives some hope and faith that still something good is left amidst such macabre social meshes which ruthlessly dictate good or bad, right or wrong. Enmeshed Life makes the reader to fall into an introspective mode where it questions, whether this dual face of so called civilised social set up is really more habitable than the wild environs when Man roamed free in jungles. The tale of two forlorn souls is very well bound in the mortar of words by Dr Tasleem.
Translator has done the justice to his noble mission of bringing forth marginalised Kashmiri literature. It is rightly said that role of the translator is many faceted. Dr Tasleem is not only an excellent writer but is clearly an equally voracious reader of the Kashmiri literature. The true understanding of the culture from which the book has evolved originally, the scenario in which it is set, and the appropriate level of familiarity with the Kashmiri thoughts, forms the strong foundation of this translation. The words in the Enmeshed Life resonate with the native cultural contexts through the translator’s subjectivity. Even a non Kashmiri reader can very clearly feel the vibrations and spirit of the original. The investment of time and energy in translating Kashmiri literature is in itself a commendable task. The roles and responsibilities of the original author, translator and publisher in bringing out this work are appreciated and Kashmiri Literary scene anticipates many more such efforts by Dr. Tasleem Ahmad War in future too.

—Courtesy: GK

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