Gulzar Saab talks about the power of translations in preserving cultural identity

The award-winning Indian writer, filmmaker and translator sheds light on his creative process at Sharjah International Book Fair 2019

04:09 PM | 1 Nov, 2019
Gulzar Saab talks about the power of translations in preserving cultural identity
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SHARJAH - Sampooran Singh Kalra, popularly known as Gulzar Saab has said translations are vital for preserving culture and identity of any nation.

He said this while addressing a session on the second day of the Sharjah International Book Fair 2019 at Expo Centre.

The famous South Asian writer took a good look at the eager audience and remarks quietly, “If only my films too had drawn such crowds!”

This then is Gulzar, poet extraordinaire, writer, filmmaker and translator, who apart from the numerous civilian and film awards he has won in India, also bagged an Academy Award and a Grammy for his song ‘Jai Ho’ from the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. His poems, literature and films reflect the same quiet yet sharp observations on the life of the multitudes. 

“I am very happy to be here and experience the friendliness of this emirate and its people,” he said. “It was such a pleasure just reading the theme of SIBF: ‘Open Books, Open Minds’. So lovely and so true", the 85-year-old writer expressed.

He had a word of advice to budding writers: Never stop reading. “When you read 100 pages you will possibly be inspired to write a page. As your writing increases, you may notice that your reading comes down. This, in the end, will tell on your writing. Keep reading. It is the fuel for your writing.”

Gulzar narrated an incident from his childhood in Delhi, India, that pointed him towards writing. “As a young boy I was very fond of reading thrillers,” he said. “An old man in our neighbourhood used to run a lending library. You could read all the books you wanted for 4 annas (AED 0.01) a week. I read so quickly that I ran out of books. So, he gave me a large volume of poems by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore to keep me busy. When I read it, I was hooked for life, and never looked back.”

Gulzar learnt Bengali to read the original writings of Tagore and ended up translating many of his poems into Hindi. “My latest translation project ‘A Poem a Day’ which will be published soon by HarperCollins, aims at amplifying the voice of young and dynamic poets writing in different languages and dialects from across the country.

I have already finished translating 279 poems from 34 languages,” he said. “I am fascinated by the sheer dynamism of poetry coming from different parts of the country, especially the North-Eastern states. Translations help preserve the cultural identity of the original work.” 

The jam-packed session was moderated by radio jockey Gagan Mudgal.