She is away from her home and in far off Mumbai, she still harps on Assamese literature and culture. Once a student of Handique Girls College and Guwahati University this is natural she will be happy to take Assamese literature to a Pan-Indian readership through English translation.
Two long years of wait by Prof Bhaswati Parasar for the English translation of Anuradha Sharma Pujari’s Assamese novel Jalachabi as Ashes Still Whisper’ which is a wonderful title too to be out in the market and finally in 2021 it goes global.
The well-known name, Anuradha Sharma Pujari is an editor cum novelist and this novel is the twentieth in number published by Banalata in 2014 in Assamese though she had her debut as a novelist in 1998 with the most popular novel ‘Hriday Ek Bijnapan’ ( Heart is a Showbiz translated Abha Bhattacharya).
In Jalachabi, the big question about Alzheimer patients is raised ‘‘Does a long life mean longer sufferings?” The painful categorization between ‘people with memory’ and ‘people without memory’ is at the heart of the book. The novelist rightly said in the introduction to Bhaswati Parasar’s translation that the ‘notions of youth and age became perplexing because of the lack of balance between time and people’s desire”.
The book from the beginning to the end harps on the single theme: “Has Old age become a curse in the contemporary times?” although many such questions related to senility continuously peep into the narrative. All the 19 chapters of the book depict the journey of Subarnajyoti Devi, a simple ordinary middle-class woman but extra-ordinary in her attitude to life. Her death after three long months of painful stay in the hospital leaves her daughter Mani devastated and guilt-ridden.
She reflects on the relationship they shared just before her death. A relation that turned upside down because of Subarnajyoti’s mental illness, which had reduced her just to a ‘jalachabi’ (water image) of her earlier self. She had lost her memory, she became fragile, and extremely suspicious living on the haze of familiarity and unfamiliarity.
The novel is a pen–picture of Mani’s psychological predicament in dealing with the situation arising from her mother’s wounded sense of pride and realization of her unavoidable dependency of a mother on a daughter and the ultimate loss that leads Mani to listen to the ashes that sill whisper.
Translating this type of book is really very difficult. Yevgeny Yevtushenko, a Russian poet “Translation is like a woman. If it is beautiful, it is not faithful. If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful.” But Bhaswati Parasar has done this impossible possible because in this translation she is faithful to the original and it is a beautiful rendering.
But what is more, is that she endeavors not only to say what her original author has said, but she was able to say it as she has said it. Prof Parasar’s area of research is post-modern science fiction and her deep interest is in regional literature. Though she lives in Mumbai to teach in Rizvi college she has an inherent love for Assamese literature and her selection of the novel of Anuradha Sharma Pujari is really wonderful because this eminent novelist of Assam had her novels translated into English earlier and Parasar feels that Anuradha needs more to be introduced to the Indian panorama of fictional literature as her novels probe deeper into the socio-psychological complexities of middle-class life and they are seen from a woman’s point of view.
This book will pave the way for Assamese literature to come out of Majuli to enjoy a broader spectrum of readership. The novel ends so lyrically and more lyrical in the lucid English translation of Bhaswati Parasar: “I feel as if I am standing in an evergreen garden where time has stood still.” This is the greatness of the deeper perception of the original book by a great author and we are fortunate that it is not lost in translation rather meaning is enhanced to captivate a new reader of the translated version.
Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee is an associate professor at Dum Dum Motijheel College, Kolkata. He can be reached at: [email protected]