Monday, May 05, 2008

Anna Vadgaonkar

Those who have been reading this blog for some time will know that one of the things I mourn is that some of the great Marathi books have never been translated in any other language (the main reason I started writing about Marathi books). Keeping that in mind, here's my attempt at translating "Anna Vadgaonkar" from "Vyakti ani Valli" by Pu. La. Deshpande.

Before continuing, be warned that the following post has two big handicaps: One, it is a translation, and two, it is a translation by me. You have been warned:

Anna Vadgaonkar

The class was laughing their guts out. Those listening from outside would have thought that Prof. Vadgaonkar is performing a stand-up act instead of teaching Sanskrit in class. You won't believe it, but he was teaching Kalidas' tragedy, “Ajavilap” (अजविलाप). But this was a normal day for us students. “Wow! गृहिणी सचिवः! How great is Kalidas! How should a wife be? My good fellows, don't laugh, don't laugh. What a tragic scene! Indumati is sprawled on the ground like this. Aja is mourning – मरणं प्रकृतिः – short life my good fellows, short life. Aja is sitting like this -” showing us exactly how Aja is sitting, Prof. Vadgaonkar continued his lecture(?). “Suppose, this table is Indumati. Aja is petting her on the back like this, crying – What a Love! Modern people like you won't understand -”

And his Sanskrit class used to go like this. I learnt Sanskrit from him for two years. Diminutive stature, long yellow coat (like Parsis used to wear), pagdi on head. He always reminded me of the Dipoty (Deputy) who took my third grade's exam. He wouldn't stay on any point more than two-three minutes. But he was extremely passionate about Sanskrit literature. “Take your authors of today- I don't even remember their names – how bad they write. No literature. Consider Baan (बाण), consider Kalidas, Bhavbhuti. Great! Great! My good fellows, they were great!”

He used to teach in multiple languages. The class would start in English, and slowly slip into Marathi. Then he would remember that there are some Gujarati students in class who don't understand Marathi, and, “Oh. What I was telling to these Marathi fellows was... you see my Gujarati fellows,” and back to English. Every three-four words would be followed by “my good fellows”. After every five-ten minutes, would be “not for Gujarati fellows”. And suddenly, “Do you understand, Deshpande? You won't get any other professor with so much passion for teaching. Not just Sanskrit, I teach you English, I teach you about life. Go to any other college, no stuff. Have you seen how that Prof. *** teaches Sanskrit. See my style. I get homogeneous with my teaching. Write down, “homogeneous”. You won't hear such English words anywhere else”. And this would be a normal stuff, too. He would use some multisyllabic English word, and would make us write it down.

Once, He was teaching us “Mruchchhkatik” (मृच्छकटिक). “Oh! How beautiful was our Vasantsena. Not anaemic like her (pointing to a girl in class). Put down “anaemic”. Good word, write it down. So beautiful, even your Greta Garbo would pale in comparison. And how Shudraka has portrayed Shakar... Shakar is the King of Villains! And how that %^&$ (girls blush at this word) Shakar tortures Vasantsena... Pity! Pity! And see our Charudatta. Great! Not like your modern heroes – no butterfly mentality.” I find many such words written down in in our notebooks [rambhoru (रंभोरू)= banana-tree-thighed-one] But even then, students loved Prof. Vadgaonkar. He used to get emotional when talking about “our Shakuntala”, “our Vasantsena”, “our Malavika”. All the students were laughing when he taught us the scene of Shakuntala leaving her home. But he had tears in his eyes. “You are kids. When your daughter leaves your home – great agony. Write down – agony. Correct word.” Everybody in college used to call him “Anna”. Though he tried to act like an angry teacher in class, he would tell everybody during exam, “just scribble something on the paper, so that I can give you 30 marks. If you can't write anything else, just write down Ramraksha. Just don't give me blank paper.”

He used to take students to his house. “Rama, these are my students.” he used to introduce us proudly to his wife.

“Sir, I didn't understand 'Shankarbhashya'. Can you teach me again?” I once asked him.

“You know what... even I don't understand Shankarbhashya.”

I just kept staring at him.

He retired when I entered “Junior” class. All students arranged a send-off for him.

Prof. Vadgaonkar started his speech, “My good fellows...” And he just couldn't continue after that. After just “my good fellows...” he had to sit down.

P.S. More translations will be posted depending on response to this post.


Cuckoo said...


This is the stuff I was looking for. Looks like good book (i.e.if translation was good). ;)
Is it a small book ? How many chapters ?

P.S. More translations will be posted depending on response to this post... What's this ? Pls go ahead with your translations even if you don't get any response. You know there is at least one reader to your blogs whether she comments or not. :-)

Cuckoo said...

Oooops that was my old id.

Cuckoo said...

You are tagged here. Check it out.

Amey said...

@Cuckoo: 3 comments in a day? Wow... This must be a lucky day ;)

That said, read the review for more details about the book. (I think I remember telling you at the time that you should read it). It is about 100-150 pages long, but it has distinct "biographies", so you don't need any continuation.

As for future translations, I attempted this biography because it is the smallest. Unfortunately, even then I had to leave out a sentence or two sometimes because they won't translate well. What I am saying is, it's a hard work :D