As the delectation of Amjad Ali Khan’s awadhi vocals filled the air, the gathering slowly started to take shape at Oxford Bookstore for the much-anticipated literary event of the month. Harper Collins along with Delhi’s very own The Tadpole Repertory orchestrated a beautiful evening to relive the artistry of Nirala’s creations. The event was occasioned to launch Satti Khanna’s marvelous translation of Nirala’s work in the book A Life Misspent.
The evening was commenced with a narration of an excerpt from the book by two very talented dramatists from The Tadpole Repertory. Their deepened understanding of the characters and vivid description of the narrative through fine vocal modulations imbued the audience with the essence of the story. One could easily find oneself fathoming the feelings of the character in the expressive eyes of Kriti Pant.
The stage was now set for a deliberative conversation with Satti Khanna on topics traversing through various issues. “My task was not to focus on the content”, he exclaimed, “It was to understand and preserve the music of the work. Without the music, it would be like a stringed instrument waiting to be played”. While promoting readership for translated texts in India, he voiced his concern about the misplaced opinions that revolve around local or vernacular writers – “We are made to believe that European works on romanticism and humanism are much more profound than their contemporaries in India. This is highly foolish. As much as I love reading Wordsworth, I cannot objectively explain the pleasure I feel while reading the rawness of Nirala’s works”. He also emphasized on the important role played by the art of translation in opening up arenas for cultural dialogue as well as for rejuvenating the demand for some talented yet latent writers.
While answering the questions put across by the audience, Mr. Khanna elaborated on his understanding of philosophies of Nirala. He said that empathy was a major driving force for Nirala’s writings. You can see his compassion and progressive outlook in the way his characters, people from socially disadvantaged groups, are crafted. He has written an entire novella on this cobbler who used to sit on the pavement right across his house. Mr. Khanna concluded his talk by answering the last question, which had asked him to see Nirala’s writing in khari boli (contemporary Hindi) in a different perspective, maybe love. He answered, that even though love is a strong factor, it hardly displaces empathy as a driving force for a writer. Nirala had written about Dalits and homosexuals not because he was a righteous being but due to his empathy towards ironies of life.
On that note, the session was concluded and the crowd got an opportunity to get their copies signed by Mr. Satti himself with some brief conversations over tea.