Interview of J.S. Mishra, Author of “Shayaree-e-Zindagee – Poetry for Life”
The recent launch of a collection of Urdu poems translated in English is a matter of joy for poetry lovers. Titled Shayaree-e-Zindagee – Poetry for Life, it has more than 500 couplets of eminent Urdu poets, both in Hindi and English, curated and translated by J.S. Mishra. Mr. Mishra curated couplets from such maestros as Ghalib, Jigar, Iqbal, Firaq, and Nida Fazil, and translated them into English for today’s generation. Shayaree-e-Zindagee is one of the finest collections of Urdu poems in English. Author J.S. Mishra, a civil engineer from Rurkee IIT, is an Indian Administrative Service Officer. He is an avid reader and a passionate poet. “Happiness is Choice: Choose to Be Happy,” and “Art of Life: Wisdom from the Gita,” two of his books, were highly acclaimed. According to him, “Poetry is an ancient form that has been closest to the hearts of human beings since ages. The use of poetry to convey one’s feelings, emotions and thoughts has evolved with the human civilization.” SliceofRealLife catches up with Shri J.S. Mishra to share with you his views on the future of poetry and the survival of literature in regional languages of India, in a freewheeling chat below:
You are a civil engineer graduate from IIT and an administrative officer by profession. How did the transition into the world of creative writing and literature happen?
I have been interested in Urdu and Hindi poetry since my early school days. Since beginning hymns and shlokas from scriptures kept in family library and Dohas and Chaupais from Ramacharitmanas kept in home temple always fascinated me and right from my high school days, I could recite these quite fluently. Later I started writing poems from my high school days and felt always inclined to read poetry whenever I got an opportunity to do so.
What motivated you to take the pains of translating the couplets of so in-depth, soulful Urdu poetry into English?
As mentioned above, I have always been interested in Urdu poetry. After sending the manuscript of my previous book ‘Art of Life: Timeless Wisdom from the Gita’ to my publisher Rupa Publications in 2013, I was keen to read some Urdu poetry to revive my interest, break the monotony and enrich myself. I have a good collection of books on Urdu poetry, but decided to purchase some more to equip my personal library. While going through various anthologies of Urdu poetry, it occurred to me that although a large number of people are keen to learn and enjoy Urdu couplets, they feel handicapped due to the lack of knowledge of Urdu script and a limited vocabulary of Urdu language. Therefore, it struck me as a good exercise to select some Urdu couplets and publish a collection with English translation. It was also intended that the couplets in this collection should not have many difficult words and be of interest to all classes of people. I decided to take up this endeavor and bring out a collection of about five hundred such couplets of eminent Urdu poets in the present collection.
How is the most challenging or difficult about translation of literary works in general?
The endeavor of translation of literary works in general and of Urdu couplets in particular is fraught with danger and challenges of its own kind, but I always had this desire that gems of Urdu poetry should also reach those people who are not well-versed in Urdu, so that they could also enjoy and benefit from the beautiful poetry of eminent Urdu poets.
The challenge in translation lies in taking due care to retain the flavour and essence of the original and still communicate the meaning, context and the message contained in the original work. Selection of chapters especially in case of poems needs to be done with due thoughtfulness and sincerity so as to include poems pertaining to different moods, emotions and feelings.
What is more pleasurable – reading a work of Hindi literature in Hindi or reading a translated version of the same in English?
For a person who is eminently well versed in language and literature, it will be more pleasurable for him or her to read the literature in the language originally written by the author or poet but for such persons who are not well versed accordingly, for them translated version is the only option.
How long will poetry survive, according to you, if more and more aspiring authors take up fiction or nonfiction writing?
Poetry is eternal graffiti at its most natural, most powerful and appealing format. Pablo Neruda says that poetry is an act of peace. In fact, poetry is something which makes us smile, laugh, cry, meditate and inspires us to see new dreams and fly to new horizons. It makes us feel that we are not alone going through life’s vicissitudes but our joys and sorrows are shared.
Poetry has been closest to the hearts of human beings since Ages due to its charm and appeal to the human sensibilities as well as its impact and effectiveness on human mind. It is said that the hymns in Rigveda were one of the first poetic expressions in human evolution.
Poetry as an art form always provides happiness, solace and relief to the readers. As long as human beings have emotional needs and appreciation for various moods and feelings as long as they appreciate the sun, the moon and the stars, and have value for tears in other’s eyes, poetry will always have a chance to survive. No wonder the great Victorian poet and critic Mathew Arnold says that the future of poetry is immense.
It is a known fact that today’s children are not encouraged to read poetry other than a few poems in their school syllabus. How to make them feel the bliss of reading and writing poetry?
In my view solution lies in pro-actively encouraging children to read poetry at home and also including poetry in syllabus. In fact, even adults are not inclined to read poetry as it never provides instant entertainment. Poetry needs patience and applications of intellect but gives real joy!
How can we revive the glory of literature in regional languages and vernacular dialects of India, which is being eclipsed by English?
By encouraging and inculcating reading habits among children and adults, promoting the habit of purchasing and gifting books on festivals and other normal days and organizing poetry-recitation sessions in schools and neighborhoods etc.
You have already published five collections of Hindi poems. What was the response to your previous works?
All my books have been very well received and the Times Music has released 5 music albums as on date based on my poems and lyrics. These have been sung by Asha Bhosale, Hariharan, Ustad Rashid Khan, Rekha Bhardwaj, Alka Yagnik, Roop Kumar Rathod and many other eminent singers of India. These albums have been very well received by music lovers and litterateurs alike.
These days, there are many courses on literary translation. Do these courses really help one build career as a literary translator? Or, it requires something more…
Translation of poetry does require some intrinsic sensibility towards words and literature but courses and studies definitely enhance the capability and equip a person to undertake translation as a career.
A revolution to protect and popularize Hindi is taking shape gradually in the current political regime of India. What do you think about it? What is your next move as author or poet?
I do not see any revolution to popularize Hindi as on date.
In fact, Hindi is spreading far and wide on its own intrinsic strength and has reached almost every corner of the world due to various factors. These include love of one’s roots and heritage among Indian population migrated to distant shores, Hindi films, interest of foreigners in Indian culture and philosophy, the size of Indian market and last but not the least the mystique of India since ages.
SliceofRealLife.com thanks author J.S. Mishra for the opportunity to interview him and wishes him all the best for his next ventures!