Ek Chaadar Mailee See/एक चादर मैली सी(Paperback Edition)
by SH. RAJENDER SINGH BEDI
This is one book which made me realise (again) that Translation is an art!
Fascinated by the cover - "Akademi Award" winning title translated in English, procured this 1967 edition from a second hand book seller.
On reading the intro, realised that "I Take This Woman" is the English translation of "Ek Chadar Maili Si" (blame it on my ignorance!)
Halfway through the book, felt the urge to read the Hindi version instead (thankfully!)
So I ended up reading them both, learning and appreciating the difficulty of translation.
Difference in Translation:
Sharing a sample.
English version (pg10):
"We've come on to our rooftop
I've a brother tall as a bamboo
My brother's wife is tender as the cypress
My brother's wife wears gold in her nose."
The same thing in Hindi (pg16):
वीर आया खेल के।
मैं मन्न पकावां बेल के। (footnote *1)
कोठे उत्ते गन्ना, वीर मेरा लम्मां।
भाबो मेरी पतली, जीहदे नक्क मछली।
*1- मैं बेलकर बड़ी बड़ी रोटियाँ पकाऊं
Like this, there are 26 such verses in around 100 pages!
The Hindi version with the Punjabi verses kept intact, made all the difference in getting the "feel" of the book!
Was the English translation bad?
No! Back in 1967, it was done by an expert - Mr Khushwant Singh!
But somehow it fails to capture the essence.
What could be better in translation?
Combining the translation text along with keeping the original verses intact, would empower the reader to grasp the "feel factor" :)
I had a similar experience before, where the English translation totally killed a great book (दोज़ख़नामा : मंटो और ग़ालिब जब हुए रूबरू)
Coming back to the book.
When elder brother (Triloka) dies, our protagonist Rano (widow from elder brother), and the younger brother (Mangal), are forced to marry each other as per the local custom. In Hindi, this custom is called "चादर डालना" - hence the title. This relationship is tainted as till then, they were having a mother-child relationship. To an extent that while feeding her own kids, Rano offered her breast to Mangal when he was a 5 year old kid! (Cross checked the translation and that sounded pretty weird in both versions!) The rest of the book unfolds by depicting their lives imbibed in the customs around them.
Recommended for a decent plot with a lot of local flavors and customs thrown in.
If you can read multiple languages, prefer the vernacular Indian one over the English translated one.