Like with so many of Bendre’s poems, I listened to Jogi (ಜೋಗಿ) sung — in an abridged form — before I read it. Attracted almost immediately by its music, it was only later that I learnt of the poem’s special place in both Bendre’s poetry and Kannada literature. (It was hailed in 1999 as the “ಶತಮಾನದ ಕವಿತೆ” or the poem of the 20th century.)
In this translation, I have tried to recreate the rhyme and rhythm of the original. Consequently, the translation reads best when recited out loud.
In Bendre’s own words, “The poem ‘ಜೋಗಿ (Jogi)’ has sprung from the enchantment of Dharwad’s environs as well as from the terrible, doubt-ridden turmoil that comes from experiencing a dark night of the soul.”
Below are two audio pieces.
To read and listen to more (including the entire translation), please buy my book, The Pollen Waits On Tiptoe. If you are living in India, you can buy the book by going to this page.
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6 thoughts on “Jogi (ಜೋಗಿ)”
Absolutely brilliant translation! And an unbelievable feat because, even after your success, Bendre remains an untranslatable poet!
As your afterword says, you have truly recreated the magic of the last stanza.
May I suggest the following: “single koel” sounds a little off key. “A lone koel” or some similar thing might be a better option. “Lonely koel” may introduce a shade of meaning not in the original, although not out of sync with the intention of the poem.
Similarly, “one note it calls without a break” may sound better if the “one” is changed. “The same note it calls” or, here, “a single note it calls..”.
But beyond these details, what an absolute treat!
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Thank you very much for your very complimentary comment. It was very gratifying to read and I’m very glad you enjoyed the translation so. Thank you too for actually taking the time not simply to carefully read the translation but to actually write to me about it. Though the translation has got some “950 hits” so far (by, say, 500 unique people at the very least), you are the VERY FIRST ONE to write to me — and for that I am very grateful. So thank you very much again. 🙂
About your suggestions — they’re interesting and I believe I see where you’re coming from, but I must note that both choices had as much to do with retaining the rhythm (ಲಯ) I had “created” as they did with capturing the ಭಾವ of the original poem.
1. In the case of “single”, a two-syllabled word was required to keep the rhythm. That would make “lone” unfeasible. “Lonely”, on the other hand, is a feasible option…but it, like you say yourself, imbues the line with a ಧ್ವನಿ (suggestion) that is not part of the original. Also – I’m not sure I agree that “lonely koel” is in sync with the poem’s intention. We know that the koel calling for its “mate of soul” parallels the meeting of the narrator and the jogi, but to call the koel “lonely” right at the outset seems to be both overstretching and a “giveaway” of sorts.
2. In the case of “one note”, I suppose I chose the “one” to go with the ‘ಒಂದು” of “ಒಂದಳತಿ”. Once again, rhythm demanded a single syllable (which makes ‘single’ unfeasible). As for “same”, it’s definitely a possibily — but fitting it into the line’s rhythm is rather tricky, especially since it demands the use of “the”. In any case, considering it gives us four possibilities – of which I’ve chosen the third. I still stand by it…though I could make decent arguments for nos. 1 and 4 too. 🙂 What do you think?
I. “The same note it calls with a break — without tiring at all”
II. “It calls the same note without a break — without tiring at all”
III. “One note it calls without a break — without tiring at all”
IV. “It calls one note without a break — without tiring at all”
In any case, thank you again for your response, Ashwin. I hope you find the time to look through the other translations (and videos and audios and excerpts) on the website and find something to please you among them. Please also feel free to write to me again offering your opinion (or anything else) about what you’ve read – or even about a poem you think deserves to be translated.
Thank you very much for translating the untranslatable.
I was introduced to this poem by Prof Ashwin Kumar (I assume it is the same Ashwin who wrote the earlier comment). I spent three years in Dharwad and have passed by this road on many Sundays to visit the temple. Dharwad and particularly the area around Someshwara temple and Nuggikere are very special to me. Reading your translation just added to the richness of my memory.
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Dear Mr. Rajeeva,
Thank you very much for your message. It was very gratifying to hear that you enjoyed the translation and that it brought back happy memories.
Can I ask what “road” you passed “on many Sundays”? I myself have been to Dharwad only twice; once in early 2016 and once in late 2017. The first was a pilgrimage of sorts to Bendre’s house, where I was lucky enough to meet and talk to the late Mr. Vamana Bendre. The second time was an incidental visit, though I did use it to once again visit Bendre’s house and the museum next door to it. I also got a chance to go to the “atta” of Manohara Granthamala and recite my English translation of ‘Jogi’ to the group assembled there (which included the late Giraddi Govindraj).
Also, I too got to visit the Someshwara temple! It was the afternoon and I seem to remember that it was closed, but I sat on the “jaguli” outside and spent some time in a temple I had first seen in the 1972 documentary on Bendre. I cannot say I was particularly impressed (I don’t like the “modernization” of temples through the use of gaudy paint), but I did like the relative quiet of the place. On the other hand, I did not get to see Nuggikere. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is no longer there! Do you know if it is or isn’t?
Finally, I’d be happy to hear more about your time in Dharwad and your memories of it. When were you there? And did you get a chance to meet Bendre himself?