Hansa Wadkar (born Ratan Bhalchandra) was one of Maharashtra's best-known stage and screen personalities. By the time she was married — to a much older family friend and impresario when she was just 15 — she had already starred in nine or ten movies and was becoming a name in the film world. Supporting her family on her earnings, her brother sick with malaria, and both parents having taken to drink, life was not easy for the young woman. But Hansa was not only beautiful and immensely talented, she was tough, wilful, capricious and headstrong. Her autobiography, Sangoe Ai ka, published in 1970 and translated into English here for the first time, created a sensation for its frankness and boldness. It was later made into a film, Bhumika, by legendary director Shyam Benegal and starred Smita Patil in the title role.
Jasbir Jain is Sahitya Akademi Writer/Critic-in-residence at the University of Rajasthan and Director of the Institute for Research in Interdisciplinary Studies. She won the South Asian Literature Association award for distinguished scholarship in 2008.
Shobha Shinde heads the Department of Comparative Literature at North Maharashtra University, Jalgaon.
Our journeys to this text began from two different points. One of us—Jasbir Jain—came to be interested in Hansa Wadkar because of her appreciation of Bhumika, the film based on Wadkar's life. Jasbir was interested in the differences of gender where artistic creativity was concerned and the cramping lack of sympathy and exploitation which normally daunted the female artist. She managed to get hold of a copy of Sangtye Aika, the original Marathi version of Wadkar's autobiography (published in 1970), through a friend, Nafisa Hatimi. But translation of the Marathi text required a collaborator who was familiar with the social nuances of the spoken idiom.
It was at this point that Shobha Shinde came in. Though we had known each other for some years, undertaking a task like this was not easy across the distance from Jaipur to Dhuliya. It was Shobha's willingness to travel, to bear the Jaipur heat and to give up a part of her summer vacation that worked towards this partnership. Then it was Jasbir's turn to travel to Pune, where Shobha's daughter lived and where we could meet. Pune was not only more convenient in terms of air connections, but it was also the home of the National Film Archives and the place where the original publisher of the book was located.
A third meeting took place at Jalgaon, where Shobha Shinde had now moved as Professor. This helped us complete the text, go over the earlier drafts and make it ready for publication. Further material from the archives was collected through a subsequent visit by Jasbir Jain.
As we travelled with the meaning and its transfer to another language, we argued about the nuances of each word, local references and implied meanings, consulted dictionaries, and went through a constant process of selection, rejection and rethinking, keen on a faithful transfer of the cultural meaning as well as maintaining a closeness to the original text. We were also conscious of the ethicality of not allowing our own presence to intrude or encroach on the original. Individually, we both gained in our understanding of language and of the process of translation.
Translation is not merely a linguistic exercise, it requires a simultaneous engagement with the cultures of the two languages as well as a constant resistance to encroachment, misinterpretation or misrepresentation. Towards this end, the translator has to go through a hermeneutic relationship with the text—getting into it but not going overboard, to submit but not to yield, to understand but not to explain. The translator has constantly to aim at self-erasure so that the reader's relationship to the text can work on its own terms.
Hansa Wadkar's autobiography presented several challenges. Its colloquialisms, the wandering memory, the rambling narrative and the short, clipped sentences were all open invitations for meaning to be deduced and filled in. They were also a constant source of temptation for inserting linkages, temptations that, fortunately, we resisted. Else the beauty of the original, its innocence and its spontaneity would have been lost. There was, in addition to the abruptness of the language, the quick shift of mood from resentment to understanding, the contradictory pulls of desire, the sense of adventure and the sheer pleasure of riding against the wind—each represented a different Hansa. It is this fragmented being who comes together momentarily in Sangtye Aika and is now presented as You Ask, I Tell.
During the years that we have worked on this translation, we have incurred debts of hospitality, intellectual discussion and friendship. It has been a journey worth taking. We express our gratitude to all those who extended a helping hand, filled in gaps, gave us time and listened to us.
Jasbir Jain Shobha Shinde
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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