Translating Poetry

‘Aghonar Kunwali’ of Keshab Mahanta

‘Aghonar Kunwali’ (The Mists of Aghon) of Keshab Mahanta (b.1926-d.2006) is an important  Assamese poem, in which Assamese folk life, language and nature have played a pivotal role. Two of our translators have translated this poem into English. The readers can see that the same poem translated by two experts have produced two different versions. As there can be no ultimate novel or a poem, there can be no ultimate translation also.

Keshab Mahanta
আঘোণৰ কুঁৱলী
কেশৱ মহন্ত

আঘোণৰ কুঁৱলীয়ে বাট ভেটি কৰিছে আমনি,
একোকে নমনি।

কুঁৱলী নথকা হ’লে দেখিলোঁহেঁতেন বা
পতা-সোণ-বৰণীয়া ধানৰ আঁচল,
দেখিলোঁহেঁতেন বা লিহিৰি লিহিৰি ঢেৰ
আঙুলিৰে মুঠি মৰা
কেছ্ কেছ্, চিকমিক, খৰ কাচিবোৰ,
দেখিলোঁহেঁতেন বা খোপাবন্ধা মূৰবোৰ
ওপৰলে’ তুলিবৰে সময় নোপোৱা।
দেখিলোঁহেঁতেন বা পতা-সোণ পথাৰত
লঘু পৰিহাসময়
হাঁহিবোৰ তেল-হালধীয়া!!
অলপ দূৰৰপৰা নোচোৱাৰ ভাও ধৰি
চাবওতো পাৰিলোঁহেঁতেন
এইজাক দাৱনিৰ মাজতে আছিলে নেকি
সেউতীও মোৰ!!

আঘোণৰ কুঁৱলীয়ে বাট ভেটি কৰিছে আমনি,
একোকে নমনি।

তথাপিও নোৱাৰিনে গম ল’ব বাৰু
এমোকোৰা তামোলৰ পিক-ৰঙা ওঁঠে ওঁঠে
সোতৰ বছৰ হোৱা 'মোক তোল আঘোণ'ৰ
ডালিমী দাঁতত
ডাঙৰি বন্ধাৰ লগ বিচাৰি, বিৰিঙা
তেল আৰু হালধিৰ
‘যাঃ’ বুলি ঠেলা মৰা খিল-খিল হাঁহি?

আঘোণৰ কুঁৱলীয়ে কৰিছে আমনি।

আঘোণৰ পথাৰত দাৱনিৰ কাম আছে
মুঠি মুঠি, কাচি কাচি, ডাঙৰি ডাঙৰি,
কাম আছে,
আঘোণৰ পথাৰত কাম আৰু কাম।
আঘোণৰ আকাশেদি কোনোবা বিললে’
মন কাঢ়ি বন-হাঁহ জাকি মাৰি গ’ল।
আঘোণৰ আকাশতো উৰুলিৰ ৰাগি আছে,
ৰাগি আছে,
আঘোণৰ আকাশত ৰাগি আৰু ৰাগি।
আঘোণৰ বাটটোহে কুঁৱলীৰে ঢকা।
মন-হাঁহ খেদি খেদি বন শেষ হ’ল
আঘোণৰ কুঁৱলীয়ে বাট ভেটি ল’লে।

(বৌদেউ! আপুনি যে কৈছিলে সেউতীৰ কথা!
মোৰ কথা সেউতীক কৈছিলে জানো?)

আঘোণৰ কুঁৱলীত ধাননি লুকালে
আঘোণৰ কুঁৱলীয়ে দাৱনি ঢাকিলে
আঘোণৰ কুঁৱলীতে সেউতী হেৰালে
ডাঙৰি বান্ধিম বুলি তৰাজৰী তোলাতে থাকিল!!

Also read: Challenges of Translating

The Wintry Fog
By Keshav Mahanta

The wintry fog impedes the way
Causing a lot of annoyance;
Nothing is visible.

Had there been no fog,
Perhaps I'd have seen the golden-hued selvedge of paddy,
Perhaps I'd have seen the swift-flashing scythes
In myriad grips of slender fingers,
Perhaps I'd have seen many unraised heads with knotted buns
Without a moment of recess,
Perhaps I'd have seen in the golden fields
The light-hearted jestful laughter, yellow as mustard!
From a little distance away, with all pretension of disinterest
I could have had a peek to find
If my Seuti was there among the reapers!

The wintry fog impedes the way
Causing a lot of annoyance;
Nothing is visible.

Still couldn't I've an inkling of the oil and turmeric-oozing titters
After the mild shove for company for tying the paddy-sheaves
In the seventeen-year-old 'pick me up' winter's pomegranate teeth
Behind the lips smeared with betel-spittle.

The wintry fog is causing a lot of annoyance.

In the wintry fields, the reapers have a lot to do:
Fistful grips, scythes, sheaves have no respite;
It's just work and work in the wintry fields.
Across the wintry sky, heading towards some lake,
A flock of wild ducks stole my mind.
The wintry sky too is an inebriation of trillings.
It's all inebriation and inebriation in the wintry sky.
Only the wintry path is shrouded by fog.
While pursuing the ducks of the mind, the wilderness ended.
The wintry fog impeded my way.

(Boudeo*! You've told me about Seuti!
Have you told her about me?)

The wintry fog hid the paddy fields,
The wintry fog veiled the reapers,
In the wintry fog, Seuti was lost,
The Tora* cords for binding sheaves lay in disuse.

* Boudeo -- wife of elder brother (sister-in-law).
* Tora -- herbaceous plant (Alpinia nigra).

Translated by Krishna Dulal Barua

Also read: Translation — a bridge between cultures

The Mists of Late Autumn
by Keshab Mahanta

The mists of late Autumn are vexing me 
obstructing the path
Nothing is visible.

Had the mists not been there
I might have seen
the thin-gold-coloured wavy edge of the paddy field,
Might have seen the rustling, glinting,
rapid sickles in the grip of
many dainty fingers,
might have seen
the heads with knotted hair
not getting time to raise.
Might have seen in the thin-gold paddy fields
the bantering smiles that are dark yellow!!
Pretending I was not looking at
from a distance
I could have well noticed
if Annie—I yearned for—
too, was there among these reapers!!

Mists of late Autumn are vexing me
Obstructing the path
Nothing is visible.

Nevertheless isn’t it possible to find out
in the red lips stained by mouthful of areca nut
on the seventeen-year-old ‘pick-me-up’ season’s pomegranate teeth
the spreading giggles of dark yellow
pushing others shyly
seeking a partner for tying the bales?

Mists of late Autumn are vexing.
In the paddy field of late Autumn
the reapers have tasks
bundles, sicklefuls, balefuls of tasks
There are tasks and tasks
in the paddy field of late Autumn.
Across the late Autumn sky to some lake
the skein of wild ducks flew away
snatching the mind away.

In the welkin of late Autumn too
there is intoxication of ululation,
there is intoxication.
The late Autumn sky is replete with intoxication.
Only the path of late Autumn is covered with mist
Chasing after the mind-duck
The task is complete
The mists of late Autumn blocked the path.

(O my sister-in-law! You told me 
about Annie!
Did you tell Annie about me?)

The paddy field hid itself in the Autumn mist
in the mists of late Autumn
The mists of late Autumn have covered the reapers
Its in the mists of late Autumn that Annie got lost
The ropes of fibre plants
remained half prepared
In the thought of tying the bales!!

Translated  by Uttam Duorah

Keshab Mahanta (b.1926-d.2006) was an Assamese poet, lyricist and a recipient of Sahitya Akademi award for his collection poems Mor Je Kiman Hepanh.

Krishna Dulal Barua is a prominent translator and writer based in Nagaon, Assam. He received the Katha Award for translation in 2005.

Uttam Duorah, the translator, retired as the HoD, English, Women’s College, Tinsukia and is based in Tinsukia, Assam.

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