Monday, August 23, 2010

What an ajeeb editing style, sir!

It’s been a while since I read the Ramayana – any version. The last re-reading I did was years ago, and that was Rajaji’s abridged version. And before that, it was the Amar Chitra Kathas, which was even MORE years ago. My mother got me Ashok Banker’s version, on request, the last time she came back from India (a good year and a half back), after a couple of friends recommended the books highly. I hadn’t read them thus far as I’d been saving them up for a “dry” spell (where I’d be stuck with 2-3 books that were non-fiction) – which is what’s happening now.

Anyway, I’ve just finished Book 2 – The Siege of Mithila. The books have been good reading so far, all things considered, although the editing is somewhat quirky. I understand that the language has been more or less updated for the modern reader, but since the books have presumably been written in English by the author and not translated into English by anyone else, I don’t see why the conversations between the various characters couldn’t have been entirely in English.

I don’t have a problem with the occasional entire sentence being in Hindi, and certainly think it’s right for the few Sanskrit verses quoted in it to have been transcribed verbatim, with the English translations provided alongside in both cases. But why intersperse shuddh English speech with random Hindi/Sanskrit words?

For instance, Brahmarishi Vishwamitra saying to Rama: “The sands of samay are running out, rajkumar.” WHY do that? What’s with the “samay” in the middle of the sentence? How would it sound if Vishwamitra had said “Time nikal ja raha hai, Prince”? Ridiculous, right?

Bad enough that it's ridiculous, but worse still is the fact that such linguistic randomness breaks the flow of the speech and intrudes upon the reader’s consciousness as it’s so awkward. Why could the editor not have had Vishwamitra say "The sands of time are running out", leaving the “rajkumar” intact at the end, if necessary. That Hindi word at the end of the sentence would not have been as intrusive as the “samay” in the middle.

I’m not being nit-picky here. (If I was being nit-picky, I would have made a fuss about the many inconsistencies in spelling and the few misspelt words that I came across in both Book 1 and Book 2.) I’ve written about this as a genuine grievance, because the odd language intruded upon my consciousness more than once while I was engrossed in reading the story, putting me off my stride. The first such instance made me laugh, but when I kept coming across this weird editing, it became quite quickly a real irritant. It’s possible that this hasn’t been picked up as an annoying feature by other readers/reviewers, in which case I guess it’s just me.

The grievance is still genuine, though.

*ajeeb = odd


mim said...

pretty ajeeb. that sounds like a cartoon character speaking rather than a novel...

CR's version was pretty clean.

I read another version recently about lakshmana getting drunk with guha and some such...(ie before rama crossed the river)

i tried to tell my folks@home all that and they didnt believe me

Pollux aka Paps said...

Still, Banker's Ramayana is a good read. Who recommended it to you?

Shyam said...

MiM: Lakshmana getting drunk? *shiva shiva* What next? Sassing Dasharatha in the time-honoured manner of modern teenagers? :)

Gee: YOU did, you dodo! :D

Inji said...

You are right, that is a bahut annoying habit! Seriously, that samay sentence was extremely jarring to read. Are they trying to be creative?

Pollux aka Paps said...

Oooh, I do have some good taste left.

Btw, being kshatriyas, I believe it was perfectly legit for Dasaratha, and Rama (and therefore, of course, Lakshmana) to have concubines, drink, eat meat etc, in their time.
Since then, they've been canonised in Tulasidas's Rama charita manas and of course, now, it's become un-PC to say that they had all these human vices..:-)