Alms and the Men

Gurdial Singh’s acclaimed novel Anhe Ghore Da Daan has been translated into English by Rana Nayar

Written by Parul | Chandigarh | Published:June 23, 2013 4:04 am

It’s a story that has absorbed Rana Nayar ever since he read it. Gurdial Singh’s Punjabi novel Anhe Ghore Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse),published in 1976,portrays the plight of Punjabi farmers,the rural working class and the landlords. The novel was made into a film in 2011 by Gurvinder Singh and won awards for Best Direction,Cinematography and Best Feature Film at the 59th National Film Awards of India.

“The critical acclaim of the film made Gurvinder keen that the story reach out to a larger non-Punjabi audience,hence the decision to translate the novel into English,” says Nayar,who has translated many of Singh’s works previously. This time,Nayar studied the film,its characters,various frames and the slow pace to understand the novel and its many layers. “The film is a work of art,and it made me connect to the process of translation better. I could understand the novel better after watching the film,’’ says Nayar.

After six revisions,many sittings and reviews with the author,the translation is finally over. It will be published in a few months and Nayar says that translating the multiple aspects of the novel — social,folk,archival,political and cultural — was a challenge.

Singh has written the novel in various dialects,from that of the Malwa region to the borders of Rajasthan,where his characters belong.

Anhe Ghore Da Daan is the story of an elderly Punjabi Dalit man (Mal Singh),who lives in a village ,while his son,Melu (Samuel John) lives in the city. The father seeks redressal for the treatment meted out to a Dalit,while his son,a rickshaw-puller,is lost in the city,away from his roots.

“The novel explores how the old interdependence between communities maintained a social balance. With that lost and the past prejudices intact,where do these communities go? The village has nothing left,with the city encroaching on its space and resources,and the city does not own us. So the eternal questions haunts us — where do we belong? The reader is left to understand this dilemma,’’ says Nayar.

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