To say that this is lovely book would be an understatement. It is a enchanting recollection of the life of a hugely talented and sensitive human being shared with a great poet. They were united not only by love and marriage but also by an individually assessed joint commitment to social change artistic creativity and personal and political ethics in this excellent translation we have a lively account of an important part of indian history, Fired by sympathy inspiration and imagination but tempered by the hardship of reality.
From the Heart of well- known family of Hyderabad to life in a single room with the barest of necessities Shaukat Kaifi’s memoir of her life the renowned poet Kaifi Azami speaks of love and commitment.
As young people Shaukat and Kaifi fall desperately in love with each other but are soon parted. For Shaukat’s family a card holding communist a poet with no source of income is hardly the kind of person their daughter should be marrying. Yet Shaukat’s father a liberal man and loving father takes the bold step of putting his daughter’s happiness before social opprobrium and brings the two lovers together.
A marriage of over half a century a life steeped in poetry and progressive politics continuing involvement with the Indian people’s theatre association the progressive writers association. Prithavi Theatre ongoing links with the village to which kaifi Azmi belonged all these and more inform this beautifully told tale of love. Shaukat Kaifi writing details life in a communist commune a long career in theatre and film and a life spent bringing up her two children cinematographer Baba Azmi and actor Shabana Azmi.
Nasreen Rehman deft and fluent translation brings with warmth and empathy.
I have been long admired Shaukat Kaifi Sahiba’s work as an actor and for decades have enjoyed her hospitality in Janki Kutir, Bombay and the village Mijwan. It was during the winter of 2001 at Kaifi Sahib’s birthday celebration that that I first heard her read form her engaging memoir a work in progress at the time. Her beloved Kaifi died in May 2002 and she finished the book as a testament of Love died in Rehguzar (Memory Lane) was published in 2004. when the author asked me to translate the book into English I was delighted but also nervous at the possibility of her turning around and saying in her singular manner I appreciate all the hard work you have put in but I am sorry I cannot this it is not my voice I am relived that my translation has her approval.
Kaifi and I is a love story but it is also an important corrective to the proliferating stereotypical representations of Muslim’s as conservative modern incapable of engaging with liberal and progressive politics or secular concerts. The book is a montage of recollection moving between the city and the village interspersed of screenplays bringing into focus an autochthonous modernity rooted in middle class Muslim and Urdu speaking milieus. Shaukat Kaifi Sahiba’s life is loved at an intersection where communist progressive and nationalist politics converge with literature cine, a popular culture and everyday life.
In translating this book I have tried to capture the tenor of the author’s prose which has the spontaneity of conversation and is never florid. I have retained Urdu words where I thought this was the best way of conveying the author’s intentions. The use of honorifics like Sahiba and kinship terms such as Mamun (maternal uncle) may sound odd to some readers of English but they convey a very good sense of the south Asian emphasis on the etiquette of address and the ordering of familial relationships. The well known Urdu scholar Dr. Ralph Russell asked me why I had not used gold thread and god embroidery for gota, zari, kandani and karchob and agreed with my usage after I had explained the difference between these various braids and embroideries. He agreed that I retain the names of flowers food and items of clothing a gharata a Shalwar and Churidar Pyjama are trousers or pantaloons of sorts but they are very different form each other qualiya and qorma are both meat curries but this is where the similarity ends and a mogra flowers is not simply a jasmine. For the reader familiar with these worlds the terms will evoke a picture very close to the one that the author intended for others, I hope that with the help of the glossary her world will became more vivid. In translating the poetry after long discussions with Russell Sahib I decided not to recreate the poems but render into simple English poetry that is in fairly complex Urdu in order to give the reader some flavor of the original.
Readers whoa re familiar with Yaad ki Rehguzar in Urdu will find some addition in this book these have not been inserted arbitrarily by me. My publisher Uravashi Butalia and I had question where we wanted the author to expand upon her feelings an out certain matters or clarify an ambiguity. I spent several weeks with Shaukat Kaifi Sahiba readings the first draft of the translation to her and discussing our quires. He was forthright in responding to my question but firm in insisting exactly how and where she wanted these additions I tool some editorial liberties particularly in restoring the end of the book in accordance with the authors first Urdu draft again I had her permission to do so.
There are people I would like to thank for giving generously of their time to read and comment on the various drafts of my translation. Shabana Azmi for her crucial editorial input Shaheen Choudhury Antonia Douro, Mariam Faruqi Nashedd Faruqi and Katy Fizmon for important stylist suggestion and Uravashi Butalia for her patience. My debt is greatest to two individuals who are not here to see this book in print my mother begum Qamar F.R.Khan (d.6th march 2008) and Dr. Ralph Russell (d. 13th September 2008). Amma who had loved the book in Urdu was involved enthusiastically in the process of translation. I had four day long sittings with Russell Sahib who was generous in the spirit of the ustad shagid relationship. His praise was warm his criticism acute but softened by his hospitality as he fed me lunch tea and cakes through a strictly timed routine. In Delhi the late Dr. Bharat Ram and his family provide mw a home during long and frequent visits finally I would like to thank Shaukat Kaifi Sahiba me with her book. I am mindful of the responsibility of the flavored of the original.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend