From the days of the Harappan civilization Gujarat has been known for its entrepreneurship and trading acumen. Not many outside Gujarat know of its vibrant literature because so little of it has been translated into English and other Indian languages. This is particularly true of Gujarati poetry. Few know that over 2000 poems get published in various Gujarati literary magazines every year, and during the past 25 years some 50000 have been published!
The attempt in this volume of translations has been to identify some 205 offbeat (and translatable) poems in Gujarati written by well over a hundred poets. These include the 15th century poet Narsinh Mehta and several other medieval poets, as well, of course, as contemporary poets. The idea was to translate the poems into English as an offering of Gujarati poetry to the English language. For this the translator read through well over 4000 poems included in various anthologies and collections. He confined his search mainly to anthologies of selected poems partly because there was no way of locating and reading tens of thousands of published Gujarati poems, and also because he wanted to rely on capable literary winnowers to separate the grain from the chaff. Initially, his target was the selection of a hundred offbeat poems for translation. However, he stumbled upon over 400 that he found interesting, and only with great difficulty pared the final total down to less than half that number.
For ensuring both high quality and fidelity, the translation was participative, and an attempt was made to involve most of the living authors of the poems in the translation. A team of three other poets, Shri Rajendra Patel, Shri Hasmukh Raval, and Dr. Leena Trivedi provided editorial assistance.
In the selection process, the translator was partial to those poems that were relatively offbeat. The translator looked for novelty in theme, viewpoint, idiom, imagery, emotion, form, etc. Contemporary readers are more likely to find such poems interesting than poems that reflect the prevailing literary mindset. The selection, however, does include most well-known poets and many well-known poems – not because of their literary popularity but because of their oddity. It also, of course, includes many poems of relatively obscure poets. It is perhaps fair to say that the collection as a whole is reasonably representative of relatively offbeat Gujarati poems.
The shortest poem is of no more than two lines in translation (in Gujarati it is a one-liner), while the longest is of about 260 lines. Within each of the categories, too, there is a wide variation of theme, idiom, imagery, and form. Many poems in the original are in free verse. These have been relatively easy to translate. The poems in rhyme and meter are more difficult to translate in readable English. Despite the difficulty of translating metrical rhymes from an Indian language into English, the translator has been tempted to include quite a few because of their unusualness, although he has had to abandon any attempt at retaining the original meters.
Pradip Khandwalla, the translator, is an internationally known organization theorist and management scholar. He has an MBA from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. from Carnegie-Mellon University, U.S. He taught at McGill University, Canada, for several years before returning to India in 1975. Until his retirement in 2002, he was a professor at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad where he held the L&T Chair in Organization Behaviour from 1985 to 1991, and served as the Director from 1991 to 1996. He has published well over a dozen professional books, including three books on creativity. One of his books on creativity has got DMA’s best book of the year award, while another has got translated into Mandarin for distribution in China. His literary works include three books of poems in English, namely Wild Words, Out, and Incarnations. His Adhyatmik Kranti na Phool (Flowers of a Spiritual Revolution) consists of translations into Gujarati via English of over a hundred ‘vachanas’ of the Veer Shaiva poets of the 11th and 12th century Karnataka. The book got him the Gopalrao Vidhwans award of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad, and also an award given by Gujarat Sahitya Academy. Some of his English translations of Gujarati poems have been published in Indian Literature. His translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies has been published by Gujarat Sahitya Academy. He has also published the translations of a volume of Gujarati short stories of Anjali Khandwalla titled Black Rose and Other Stories.
Beyond the Beaten Track has been published by Gujarati Sahitya Parishad, Gujarat’s foremost literary association, with a membership of nearly 4000. The Parishad was founded in 1905. The Parishad gives nearly 60 awards for literary works in various genres and on various subjects every year, and confers honours on eminent authors whose writings have enriched the cultural life of Gujarat. It has established seven centers of studies on various aspects of Gujarati language and literature. It has instituted a translation center for translating Gujarati classics into English, Hindi, and other Indian languages. It organizes a dozen series of lectures on Gujarati literature every year. The publication of the book was facilitated by a generous grant from a Shell and Total venture operating in India courtesy its CEO Shri Nitin Shukla.
Gujarati Sahitya Parishad
Govardhan Bhavan, Ashram Road
Behind Times, River Side
PB No. 4060, Ahmedabad 380 009 India
The Heritage Collection consists of over 30 poems selected from Beyond the Beaten Track that have been authored by some of the best known of Gujarat’s poets who are no more. These range from Narsinh Mehta and Mirabai to Akho, Dayaram, Dalpatram, Umashankar Joshi, Krushnalal Shridharani, Makarand Dave, and Jayant Pathak. Despite the antiquity of some of these poets, their offbeat poems move us even in today’s times. This collection is intended for those Gujaratis living outside Gujarat who may have lost touch with their mother tongue but have not relinquished their love for the language and its literature. Apart from the poems, there is a brief note on each poet represented in this collection.