To retain the quintessential essence of Gurudev’s work, is a herculean challenge.The native language is definitely the fulcrum of a writer’s work and translating it in a foreign language sometimes leads to destruction of balance between thoughts, imagery, language and off course the beauty of the prose in consideration. To quote noted lyricist Gulzar: “Translation is not only about displaying a meaning in another language. A language carries a complete culture. The culture of its vocabulary needs to be translated. If readers can’t feel the shades of the character and the links of the scene, it hasn’t been translated properly.”
Lopa Banerjee’s translation of Tagore’s famous novella ”The Broken Nest” is a commendable attempt to lay bare to the world -Tagore’s compassionate and lyrical portrayal of the angst of an intelligent beautiful woman Charu trying to break free of ennui by dabbling into the imaginary world of prose and poetry. In her flights of fantasy Charu is ably supported by her brother-in-law Amal. The tapestry of their relationship is permeated by mutual respect, love for words, yearning for a beautiful world. It is foolhardy to give a name to their relationship or inanely name it as attraction or passion. Both of them nurture each other and this draws their soul together. Bhupati, Charu’s husband in his attempt to enlighten the world through his newspaper venture fails to recognize Charu’s need for companionship- this vacuity is fulfilled by Amal till probably it becomes too much for Amal to handle and Amal resolves to set sail to foreign shores to break free from the fetters of a relationship that the myopic world would label as illicit. It never probably occurred to Bhupati to fuel his hearth lamp so that it could shine more luminously- the crack in his hearth was beyond Bhupati’s comprehension till it was too late.
Banerjee, through her skilled use of language deftly translates Tagore’s portrayal of the New Woman (nabeena), struggling to break free from the confined space of andar mahal/antahpur (inner domain) in the patriarchal society of pre-colonial Bengal. The end of the nineteenth century witnessed the advent of the New Woman -educated in literature yet forced to remain within the confines of the inner domains which led to clash of the New Woman with the traditional woman practicing old ways of life. Banerjee, deftly etches such dramatic turmoil between Charu and Manda. The trials and tribulations of each persona of this Tagore novella has been beautifully brought out in Banerjee’s translated work. She has arguably emerged as a translator par excellence.
As a reader I was spellbound by the atmosphere created by Banerjee of a bygone era- an era that sowed the seeds of future promise – the struggles that women of Bengal undertook during those times has enabled women like me to spend a considerable portion of childhood free of any dogmatic shackles in my Bengal. Thank you Lopa Banerjee for reminding me of the history of my city.
Kudos Lopa Banerjee and looking forward to many more.
© Dr. Paromita Mukherjee Ojha, 2018