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Tagore works in Urdu


Some of Tagore’s best-loved works have become accessible to a new set of readers, thanks to a workshop on translating the Nobel laureate’s writings into Urdu.

Thirty-five scholars proficient in Bengali and Urdu took part in the workshop, held at the Muslim Institute off Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road from March 12 to 16.

The organisers, New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, said the best translations would be published after editing within seven months.

The workshop and a seminar on March 14 were part of a project funded under the culture ministry’s Tagore research and translation scheme to celebrate the author’s 150th birth anniversary.

With a grant of Rs 96 lakh, Jamia Millia Islamia had earlier organised a similar workshop and seminar in Delhi. “Since there are more Urdu scholars who know Bengali in Calcutta than in Delhi, we are hosting the workshop here,” said Shahzad Anjum, the coordinator of the project.

Among the participants at the city workshop was Urdu playwright Zahir Anwar, who translated Khokababur Pratyabartan (“The one that was made into a Uttam Kumar film,” he said). He also translated the play, Raja o Rani, “trying to preserve the free-flowing beauty and richness of the language”.

College teacher Nusrat Jahan translated Tagore’s stories for children in Galposhalpo.

At the end of the workshop, 12 plays, 56 letters and 21 stories for children by Tagore and six interviews of him had been translated directly from the Bengali text. Well-known Urdu scholar and translator M. Ali was assigned the task of translating the novel Gora.

In the Delhi workshop, selected short stories, essays, Geetanjali and Gardener were translated into Urdu.

Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar, who is actively involved in the project, said it was time the interaction between Urdu and Bengali, both known for sweetness, happened without the intervention of English.

Swapan Chakravorty, the director-general of National Library, said: “Calcutta is an Urdu homeland. This is where the first Urdu newspaper, Jam-i-Jahan-Numa, was published by Harihar Dutta in 1822 and the first Urdu daily, Urdu Guide, was published by Maulvi Kabiruddin in 1858. Urdu fonts and single slugs were also first developed in Chitpur.”

Sircar and Chakravorty launched an Urdu book on Tagore, in the presence of Urdu scholars Qaisar Shamim, Khalid Mahmood and others.