To Read is to Fly

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“Nearly all men…

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

–Abraham Lincoln

This is an amazing quote. The first time I read it, it reminded me of Dumbledore. Especially how he knew he couldn’t be trusted with power because it gained precedence over all other things for him then.

Language Matters

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I haven’t written in almost a month! But I’ve been really busy. It’s the end of the semester and we have last-minute lectures and assignments and what not to do.

I have started realizing a lot of things since I started my course and I am really surprised actually that all of it has been right under my nose and I have never paid attention to it. You know, like we climb the stairs to our classes every single day and we have no idea how many stairs there are or we see a picture in our house everyday and never even realize some detail in it which is right in the centre of it. Something as simple and normal as, say, language. There has been a lot of change in the way I look at language today and the way I looked at it (more like ignored it) till last year. It is just something I took for granted, a means to communicate, nothing about the nuances of it.

Almost everyone around me is, atleast, bilingual. I live in a country where knowing more than two languages is not a big deal. People speak many, many different languages and each language has many more dialects. I hear Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, English, Tamil, Malayalam and quite a few more in the train everyday. It’s true that I don’t understand everything but I understand enough to get an idea as to what the conversation is about. The language that connects all of these is, obviously, English. English has almost become an Indian language now, nobody learns it as a ‘foreign’ language. If it weren’t for English it would have been really difficult for people to communicate because imagine how difficult it would be if we had to learn every single language spoken in India! But all of the Indian languages are just so beautiful. Every language has subtleties that add a special something to them, make them different from the others.

There was this Sahitya Sammelan (literary meet) in our university a couple of months back. I think I have mentioned it in one of my earlier posts too. But anyway. There were writers from five different languages-Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati and English-who spoke to us over three days. And it was an amazing experience! I can understand English, Hindi and Marathi quite well but Gujarati and Sanskrit not so much. But it was fun. Especially hearing Sanskrit. I have studied a bit of Sanskrit in school and so I can read it and understand a little. But I had never before heard people speaking it, as we speak all the other languages I mean. It sounded so good to the ears even though I could not understand most of it. And I was very glad to hear that contrary to popular opinion people still learn and write in Sanskrit. There are many young Sanskrit poets and the epic form of the poem is very popular amongst these poets.

Speaking of poetry, I am doing three poetry papers this semester and one of them has Indian poetry from different languages translated into English. But, you know the saying ‘Lost in Translation’, I agree with it, atleast when it comes to poetry. Every time I read a poem I think about how much better it would sound in the original language. Interestingly though I have read three novels in translation too this semester and I have not felt the same thing about novels. That’s probably because I wouldn’t have understood them in the original languages anyway 😛 It happens with the poetry probably because I know I can understand the point better in the original language.

In translation there are so many things that are missing. Every language uses images and metaphors in a different way. So when a poem is translated from, say, Hindi into English, the words and images that mean one thing in Hindi may mean something completely different in English leading to the poem being interpreted in various ways. I think a translator’s job is extremely difficult but also immensely interesting. I would love to try translating something once. Maybe I will 🙂

It feels so good to ramble on about things that you really enjoy learning and doing, isn’t it? But my ‘resolution’ to write about these wonderful things has really gone down the drain. Plus I have exams coming up.

Until the next post then, it will be when it will be 🙂