Demolition, translated by Iona Mandal

A weak wall
and a weak dwelling
a strange man composed from unbaked earth
makes an offering to the rains
and is drowned by the flood
A weak wall
and a weak dwelling
a strange man composed from unbaked earth
crumbles one day from exhaustion
and is distanced from his tribe.

 

The beauty of this composition rests in its simple, yet hard hitting message on the fragility of existence and defeat in the hands of destiny which leaves one feeling rather philosophical. The short composition did not present any challenges as regards rhyme, metre or the use of metaphors which often poses difficulties in translation. The last two lines were marked by a few rhyming words as chuur (crumble) and duur (distanced). These however could not be rhymed in their English translation due to the absence of adequate equivalents. The poem is marked by repetition of the first three lines in the stanza, making the task of translation easier. I noticed the words kachchī dīvār (wall), kachchā makān (house) and kachchī miTTī (earth) which I realised implied a feminine (wall and earth) and masculine gender (house) for the same meaning of the word (unbaked). This was an interesting observation which seemed quite unusual and not practiced in English for inanimate objects. I have tried using multiple synonyms for the same word which can create challenges in translation. This came in as a test while translating the word kachchī/kachchā which I interpreted keeping in mind the context of the word (adjective to describe the noun). One of the noticeable features of the poem was the absence of punctuation marks throughout its length which I decided to retain as the original.

 

Original poem by Nahid Rana