Translation: Kedarnath Singh

Kedarnath Singh has around 500 poems to his credit, but the translation of his poems are few and far between. Our attempt at translating his poems seek to bridge this gap. It strives to capture different facets of his poetic oeuvre, and hopes to modestly convey the intricacy of his creative skill and craft into English. - Himanshi Pandey and H. S. Komalesha

Kedarnath Singh's Hindi poetry, translated by Himanshi Pandey, and H.S. Komalesha

Jnanpith (2013) award winner Hindi poet ‘Kedarnath Singh’ is the key sign of contemporary poetry. He was born in ‘Chakia’ village in Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh in 1934. He completed his masters degree in 1956 from Banaras Hindu University. He acquired his PhD degree in 1964. He taught in many colleges and retired as head of the department, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi. He composeed many books of poetry and prose. In the poetry of Kedarnath Singh, we saw a conflict between village and city. Coming from a rural background, he continued his literary journey in culture of urban cities. His major works include: ‘अभी बिल्कुल अभी’ , ‘जमीन पक रही है’, ‘यहाँ से देखो’, ‘अकाल में सारस’, ‘उत्तर कबीर और अन्य कविताएँ’, ‘बाघ’, ‘तॉल्सताय और साइकिल’. Beside Jnanpith, he was honoured by many other awards such as Sahitya Academy Award for 'akal me saras' in 1989, Maithlisharan Gupt Award, Kumar Ashaan award (kerala), Dinkar Award, Jeewan Bharti Samman (Odissa), Vyaas Samman and many more.

जैसे चींटियाँ लौटती हैं
बिलों में
कठफोड़वा लौटता है
काठ के पास
वायुयान लौटते हैं एक के बाद एक
लाल आसमान में डैने पसारे हुए
हवाई-अड्डे की ओर

मेरी भाषा
मैं लौटता हूँ तुम में
जब चुप रहते-रहते
अकड़ जाती है मेरी जीभ
दुखने लगती है
मेरी आत्मा
Mother Tongue

Just as ants return
to their colonies;
and the woodpecker
to the woods;
as the planes –stretching
their wings
in the red sky –
return one after the other
to the hangar;

I return to you
my mother tongue
whenever long silence
chokes my throat
and grief devours my soul.

Taken from the collection Akal Mein Saaras published in 1988.


और बसन्त फिर रहा है
शाकुन्तल का एक पन्ना
मेरी अलमारी से निकलकर
हवा में फरफरा रहा है
फरफरा रहा है कि मैं उठूँ

और आस-पास फैली हुई चीज़ों के कानों में
कह दूँ 'ना'
एक दृढ़
और छोटी-सी 'ना'
जो सारी आवाज़ों के विरुद्ध
मेरी छाती में सुरक्षित है

मैं उठता हूँ
दरवाज़े तक जाता हूँ
शहर को देखता हूँ
हिलाता हूँ हाथ
और ज़ोर से चिल्लाता हूँ

मैं हैरान हूँ
पटरी से चलते हुए
मैंने कितने बरस गँवा दिये
और दुनिया से कहते हुए
हाँ हाँ हाँ...

And here again comes spring
a page of Shakuntala
coming out from my almirah
asks me to rise
and say no
in the ears
of the  things that are spread around
to say no
a stern
and simple-no
that’s contrary to all the voices
and is locked in my heart

I rise
come forth to the door
take a glance at the city
wave my hand
and scream
No no no

it’s strange
that I lost several years
strolling by the streets
telling the world
Yes yes yes..
Taken from the collection Yahaan Se Dekho, published in 1983

एक पुरबिहा का आत्मकथ्य
(गीता शैली में)

पर्वतों में मैं
अपने गाँव का टीला हूँ
पक्षियों में कबूतर
भाखा में पूरबी
दिशाओं में उत्तर

वृक्षों में बबूल हूँ
अपने समय के बजट में
एक दुखती हुई भूल
नदियों में चंबल हूँ
सर्दियों में
एक बुढ़िया का कंबल

इस समय यहाँ हूँ
पर ठीक समय
बगदाद में जिस दिल को
चीर गई गोली
वहाँ भी हूँ
हर गिरा खून
अपने अंगोछे से पोंछता
मैं वही पुरबिहा हूँ
जहां भी हूँ।
An Autobiography of an Eastern Wind
(Following Gita)

Among the mountains
I am a mound of my village
and among birds, a pigeon
In languages, I am oriental
and in direction, north
among the trees, a Babool
and in my time stock
an entry of a sad mistake
amidst rivers, I am Chambal
and in winters, a warm rug
of an old hag

At this moment, I am here
but exactly at this time
I reside in the heart
ripped apart by guns
in Baghdad
I am there as well
wiping each drop of blood
from my towel
I am the same Eastern wind
wherever I blow.
Taken from the collection Srishti Par Pehera pubhished in 2014.

Translators' Bio:

Himanshi Pandey is a research scholar working in the area of Poetry Translation in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India.

H.S. Komalesha is the author of Issues of Identity in Indian English Fiction published by Peter Lang, Oxford. Sahitya Akademi, the Academy of Letters in India has published two of his English translations: Anupama Niranjana (2008) and Rashtrakavi Kuvempu (2014). He teaches poetry and poetics in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, India.

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