Bashir Athar

"A good translator ought to be a good writer"
"You needn't translate everything that has been written, you need to translate the best only."
"A good translator adjusts and not compromises with the original"
"Translators are like ambassadors representing and exchanging the best of their literary world."
"Art of translation is as old as makind.Don't you translate your thought before you speak it out?"

Dr.Shiben Krishen Raina

Translator's Note:
To translate from one language into another has never been an easy endeavour.It is an exercise both painstaking and cumbersome and only those who have engaged themselves with translation can realize the complex character of this Art. I have been associated with translation work for over three decades translating from English, more especially, from Kashmiri into Hindi and back. My translations have been widely appreciated and acknowledged and some have earned me awards/prizes and commendations. I was Fellow at Indian Institute of Advanced Study,Rashtrapati Nivas,Shimla(India) from 1999 to 2001 where I worked on the problems of translation. My research-work "Problems Relating to Translating from Various Indian Languages into Hindi with Kashmiri-Hindi" is already out and available from the Institute. Besides translating,I write short-stories and plays too.

Way back in 1997, I was on an official visit to Kashmir where I met Kashmiri poet Bashir Athar in his office-Srinagar TV Centre.It was my pleasure to receive his latest poetry collection 'Kani Shahar'(Stoney City) to read.The more I read it, the more I was impressed and felt that the poems deserved to be translated and made available for reading to more readers. The theme of the poems was timely and the style excellent. Imagery superb and the language so powerful. I selected some poems (those which impressed me the most) and translated them into Hindi for Samkaleen Bhartiya Sahitya(Contemporary Indian Literature--A Hindi magazine published by Sahitya Akedmi,New Delhi,India)Athar received lot of attention for the theme he had chosen. Eventually, I thought of introducing this powerful poet to a greater number of appreciatve readers and my choice fell on English language.I took upon the stupendous task of translating the poems into English taking care of the flavour,appeal and suggestion of the original text.I worked hard and revised/typed the pages several times before they could attain the present form. I am sure that the readers/viewers would love the poems and come out with their reactions.
Formerly Fellow,
Indian Institute of Advanced Study,

Broken Plate

Both of us ate
Rice and curd together
Off the same plate, and
Still you preserved your own entity
I my own.
But eventually
The plate broke apart
Spilling rice and curd on the floor.
And then
You established your own house
I my own.
We bought new plates
And thus
Divided became rice and curd.
But alas!
We didn't care to see
While eating from the broken plate
That underneath was
A snakeling silently thriving
On seeping milky juice
That grew into a huge python.
Devoured both of us mercilessly.

Translator's note:
(The poem is representative of the poet's observation with regard to the gradual and silent emergence of separatism, terrorism and extremism in the valley.Snakeling symbolizes a hidden enemy bent upon creating mistrust and disorder amongst Hindus/Pandits and Muslims in the valley,who otherwise,had led a dignified and peaceful life backed by mutual trust,love and affection in the past.The unnoticed enemy, in the process,created havoc and both the communities had to pay a price for that.)

Unclaimed Body

An unclaimed body
Abandoned mercilessly
In a bleak alley of
This dark-drab city.
Battered and shattered
Wrapped in utter helplessness
Aloof, uncared for
Besmeared with blood
Eyes open and firm
Complaining innocently
An unclaimed body abandoned mercilessly.

Oh God! could anybody
Come forward and help me out?
But that was not to be
Numbness grew deeper and deadly
Akin to the disasters of
Hiroshama and Nagasaki.
Dogs sat around lethargically
Satiated with human flesh and booty
With eyes half-closed, heads down
Weeping, perhaps, on 'his'
Approaching death, mournfully
An unclaimed body abandoned mercilessly.

Mehndi (Henna)on his hands
Had not faded entirely
Hair of his beard had not
Sprouted completely.
Bubbling with youth
A blossom of promise soaring high.
Sister must have looked around
Mother must have waited at the door
Old father must have gazed around anxiously
An unclaimed body abandoned mercilessly.

A few days later
Quoted a Urdu Newspaper
'We killed him, he was an informer
An adversary of the Movement, a deceiver'
A reader reacted instantly:
'Yes, he was a militant
Foe of the nation, enemy agent--'
Yet another murmured silently:
‘Neither a militant nor an agent
A loved/misguided son of the valley
A Kashmiri youth
Done to death brutally
An unclaimed body abandoned mercilessly.

Translator's note:
(One of Athar's best poems, 'Unclaimed Body' very passionately underlines the curse of terrorism, its consequences and repercussions. The poem stands out both in form and content and touches the very soul of the reader. The images created by the poet are superb and speak of poet's realistic approach to highlight the fate of the youth in terror-infested valley of Kashmir.)

Keep on Dividing

You divided the sky
Divided the Universe too
God too you divided,and
Divided the countries all over.
You divided the shade of trees
Divided their greenness and freshness
Our traditions rich you got divided
Bonds ever thick you divided
You divided water,air too
Divided our rich past
Present too you brutally divided
You divided man, his humanness
Divided his soul, his psyche too
You divided the love
Of our mothers;brothers' and sisters' affection too
Keep on dividing my friend!
Till you are exhausted.
But tell me
How will you divide my
Motherland,my homeland?
Where you live,I live and
Our ancestors lived!

Translator's note:
(The poem aims at exposing the nefarious and destructive motives of antisocial elements including extremists bent upon dividing the homogenous/secular character of Kashmiri society.The last four lines of the poem highlight the deep love the poet has for his society and homeland.He is hopeful that no one can divide his motherland.)

Where Will I go?

You thought:
Your exodus
Would make me glad,and
I would
Become wealthier
By grabbing your share.
Seize your land
In my closed fist,
Destroy your past
Build a dream-house
On your memories, and
Imprint my mark on your
Yes,I did it all-
But in the process
My own self,my own identity perished
Like footsteps on sand.
You thought:
I gulped down your existence
But in the process
Where did my ownself go?
You don't really know!
I tried my best to put my seal on
Your everything,
Again in the process
Never thought of graveyards
Expanding so rapidly,and
Still falling short.
You will find fire
For your pyre anywhere-
But where will I go?
What will be the fate of my grave
My friend!
This is the worry
Paining me constantly.

Translator's note:
(The poem hints at the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits/Hindus in the wake of growing militancy in the valley.The poet recalls his old and fond associations with this community and wants to share the agony/grief and sorrow of Pandits alongwith his own painful moments resulting from growing militancy in the valley.The poet is worried to find that graveyards are expanding and space is shortening day by day in the valley due to killings by terrorists,killings by para military forces and killings resulting from cross-border terrorism.Those who left the valley may find their abode finally but what about those who are destined to live on in the valley?.)

(All the four poems translated from Kashmiri into English by Dr.S.K.Raina,formerly Fellow IIAS,Shimla,India)



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