When Kshitis Roy (1911-95) joined Visva- Bharati at Santiniketan in 1934 as a lecture in English, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) had just entered the final Phase of his lifelong creative adventure; his creativity exploring new possibilities in painting, poetic expression, music, dance and education. Roy soon becomes part of his inner circle, and a collaborator on many of his projects, particularly as on the poet’s favourite translators. The present volume offers a comprehensive selection of Roy’s Translations from Tagore, including nearly 170 songs, which are more reading of the originals, then renderings- ‘neither literal nor literary an aid to the understanding of the meanings of the songs an incentive to the non- Bengali to try and learn some of the songs of Tagore in their original wording and melody,’ as he explained himself.
The present selection of the poems and songs of Rabindranath Tagore translated by Kshitis Roy was planned as a joint tribute to Tagore in commemoration of his hundred and fiftieth birth anniversary and to Roy, his favourite translator, in commemoration of the centenary of his birth. His daughter, Srila Chatterji and Sharmila Roy Pommot, provided us with photocopies of his private diaries, in which Roy made his translations and copied down translations made elsewhere and handed out. They helped us track down several sources carrying more translations, the most substantial collection of which is the often reprinted One Hundred Songs of Rabindranath Tagore, compiled by Indira Devi Chaudhurani, published originally in 1961, on the occasion of the centenary of Tagore's birth. We discovered his translations in several anthologies and periodicals, and we are sure there would be more still lying uncollected. We propose to carry on with our search, and hope to come up with an exhaustive second edition sometime in the future.
There has been a spate of translations of Tagore since the Centenary, and the translation debates have continued with different approaches defined by different translators. From 1934 to 1941 Roy had the privilege of Tagore himself monitoring-and in some cases 'revising'-his translations. Krishna Kripalani and Roy are credited with the translation of Tagore's testamentary Sabhyatar Sankat as Crisis in Civilization.
Born 6 September 1911 in Dibrugarh, Assam, Kshitis Roy came down to Kolkata to complete his graduate and postgraduate studies. With a Masters in English Literature, he joined Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, as a teacher of English in Shiksha Bhavan, in 1934, and was almost immediately picked up by Krishna Kripalani, who revived the Visva-Bharati Quarterly in May 1935, to assist him editorially. The Quarterly, in its earlier incarnation (1923-29) had carried translations from Tagore by the Poet himself, Edward Thompson, Kshitishchandra Sen and Indira Devi Chaudhurani. In the New Series, Kshitis Roy and Amiya Chakravarty joined the team of translators, Tagore himself making rare appearances. What is interesting is that Roy would be often translating texts already translated by Tagore! -his versions strikingly different from Tagore's, but faithful to the spirit of the original, capturing shades of Tagore's sensibility.
In 1939-40, Roy was chosen by Tagore to develop and extend the series of school readers he had initiated in 1930- the Sahaj Paths. Roy involved Patha Bhavan and Shiksha Bhavan teachers as contributors to the two new volumes that he edited, contributing several pieces himself. As he spelt out in an editorial note, he laid special emphasis on introducing science, advising teachers of Bengali to seek cooperation of their colleagues teaching science, to ensure that 'children could relate in many possible ways to the world that they could see and hear, and simultaneously develop their natural imagination.'
In the changes in Visva-Bharati that followed the death of the Poet, Roy found himself handling administrative and institutional responsibilities, first as Assistant General Secretary, with the Poet's son Rathindranath as General Secretary, and then in 1948 as the first Principal of Vinay Bhavana, followed by a stint as Assistant Registrar in 1951. As Curator of Rabindra Bhavana, 1955-61, he worked in close association with Vice-Chancellor Satyendranath Bose, on preparing a draft scheme for the reorganization of the Tagore Museum and Archives that could be realized in the Centenary year. In a letter dated 19 May 1958 addressed to Bose, Prime Minister Nehru, expressed interest in Kshitis Roy's scheme. Along with Pulinbihari Sen, Roy was involved in several national and international projects for the Tagore Centenary in 1961, editing and contributing to volumes published by the Sahitya Akademi, the Sangeet Natak Akademi and other institutions.
In 1961 Rathindranath Tagore, in a letter to Pratima Devi, wrote: ‘A news I received this morning has left me deeply distressed. A letter from Kshitis tells me that he has been banished from Rabindra Sadana, his reward for the indefatigable labour that he put in for the birth centenary celebrations. This act of Sudhi [Sudhi Ranjan Das, then Vice- hancellor] has left me with nothing of whatever respect I had for Sudhi, who has now turned out all those who loved Visva-Bharati, and adored my father. Who will he have now to run the place? I can only envisage a dark future.'
Kshitis Roy handled his later official responsibilities as Director of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and later as Eastern Regional Secretary of the Sahitya Akademi with the same commitment and dedication. But the one passion that he carried with himself to his very last years was that for translation. While Tagore occupied pride of place in his translation project, he produced masterly translations of Gandhi, Nehru, Nirmal Kumar Bose, D H Lawrence, Bibhutibhishan Bandyopadhyay, Sukanto Bhattacharya, and Birendrakumar Bhattacharya.
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