The Story of Us

Navtej Sarna talks about his English anthology of Partition stories written by his father in Punjabi

Written by Parul | Published:September 11, 2013 12:12 am

If literature holds the mirror to society,then language becomes the vehicle for reflection. Driving this vehicle are authors who are committed to taking the literature of Punjab to a larger audience . One such is author and diplomat Navtej Sarna,who decided to relive the experiences of Partition,as he translated the stories written by his father Mohinder Singh Sarna from Punjabi into English.

Titled Savage Harvest: Stories of Partition (Rupa,Rs 221),this compilation includes 30 stories on the exodus. “There were as many as 80 short stories,and the effort was to bring the best into English,” says Sarna. His father had selected these stories before he passed away. Sarna grew up listening to these stories and like all translators,he admits that the biggest challenge was to remain true to the original,and to recreate accounts from literary Punjabi,which carried nuances of the language spoken in Rawalpindi to everyday English.

“These are stories of ordinary people from both sides,and their extraordinary acts of love and compassion,” he says. There is an account of a poet who returns home across the border to find his books intact among strangers. Another is of a young man challenging the neighbourhood rogue to horse-riding to rescue a captive girl. A story that tells of humanity under threat has a dog sacrificing his life to protect his mistress. Sarna is sure the anthology will strike a chord with the reader.

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