Introducing Gaddar to non-Telugu speakers
‘Gaddar is a life force’, is how Vasanth Kannabiran describes the balladeer within the e book ‘My Life is a Song: Gaddar’s Anthems for the Revolution’, her translation from Telugu to English that’s revealed by Speaking Tiger Books.
Gaddar and Vasanth are ‘fellow travellers’ in a journey that defied odds and traversed by means of opposed conditions. Vasanth is a poet, author and campaigner for girls’s rights. Gummadi Vittal Rao, often known as Gaddar, is an artist-activist and has been the cultural face of the Naxal motion. His songs stem from his remark of the plight of the downtrodden, and his repertoire, through the years, embodied the spirit of awakening.
Through the e book — the first-of-its-kind choice of his songs — Vasanth introduces Gaddar to non-Telugu speakers. A job, she says, was not a simple one in any respect.
Vasanth was within the strategy of translating Dakshinayana: Indian Thought Series Telugu/English Volume and he or she bought to translate one poem by Gaddar when she realised the necessity to place his “brilliance” earlier than the non-Telugu public. She selected 23 consultant songs of his to translate. “It was the most difficult and challenging work I have done so far,” says Vasanth, who’s recognized and heard Gaddar since 1975. “I have always been fascinated by the ease with which he translates the political into sheer poetry; the simplicity and purity of his style. But I never dreamt of translating his songs,” she says.
In the preliminary chapters, Vasanth covers Gaddar’s life — the trail that made him the archetypal of the grassroots struggles in India: “Gaddar has lived with miners, railroad workers and stone cutters to capture their lives in song. Inspiring youth to join the struggle, comforting mothers and wives that the martyrdom was not in vain, celebrating the dead and immortalising them, that was his activism”.
Vasanth’s translation work is rooted in her politics as a socialist feminist. “Though I have studied and taught literature, I never thought of writing or translating work as a scholar. I was a teacher and my first attempt was to teach Coleridge, Wordsworth and Milton to my Telugu medium students. My attempts to write or translate or record sprang from my feminist politics, never as pure literature” says Vasanth.
However, in translating Gaddar’s works, the problem was past the syntax-idiom precision.
“Capturing his oral tones, the rhythms, the notes in cold print, the pauses, the roars, the grunts and the drums was impossible. It was not just a translation from a text. His voice rings in my ears,” says Vasanth. Keeping in thoughts the non-Telugu talking reader, Vasanth had to footnote the Telangana dialect, the native references, the gods, goddesses, the tradition, and even the Srikakulam revolutionary wrestle, since she felt the folks within the north have solely heard of Naxalbari.
Vasanth’s assimilation of Gaddar’s work comes from her shut affiliation with him and her social activism. “Gaddar has been a part of my life, a client of Kannabiran (her late husband, human rights activist and lawyer) and a comrade in a struggle I admired for its dedication and sacrifice. I have a strong sense of his work because of my association and exposure to the Naxalite movement,” she says.
Gaddar would usually break into an impromptu rendition, leaving many songs undocumented.
“Gaddar composes and sings as he breathes. The slightest incident or remark and he breaks into song. He improvises as he sings. The important ones are revised and recorded. There must be thousands of songs imprinted on the hearts of listeners. And thousands lost. He says a song will die out when it is no longer politically relevant,” shares Vasanth.
About the relevance of Gaddar and his works, Vasanth feels that one ought to bear in mind each poet, nonetheless historical, was in a ‘dialogue with God, king or society’.
“Ancient poets spoke of the equality of men, of the impunity of caste and the injustice faced by the dispossessed. Gaddar is first and foremost a bard of the revolution, a harbinger of change. He must be celebrated as such,” she explains.