It was quite a surprising yet pleasant feel when I read the translation of Gurdial Singh’s novel Adh Chahnni Raat done by an emerging writer Awais Sajjad. Awais has been sending me his creative compilations since he started his research journey in various literary genres. For his part, Gurdial Singh is a well-known name from India, so his work demands a peculiar attention, especially when it comes to translation.
At the outset, I congratulate Awais for his first endeavour in translation that he did brilliantly. Lexicology while translating a certain work of literature demands a proper understanding of how to communicate the complete sense of delivered words and feelings. The brilliance of the translator must be noted from the fact that many words have been carried in use from their peculiar context. I came to add many new meanings of the same words in my dictionary – e.g. “Kaatik” which also meant a disease before the partition of the Subcontinent. That shows that the translator has done thorough research to get to know the enriched meanings of a certain selected word from another language.
Secondly, the thing that captured my keen interest in this work was its characterisation. I was sharply reminded of Chinua Achebe’s Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart while analysing the character of Moodan in Gurdial’s work. It was more a fall of the whole system of village life presented in the same work rather the mere death of this character. The ending death scene of Moodan makes us ponder over the role of chance. One cannot run away from what has been decided by nature and if someone ‘dares’ to do so, they are killed mercilessly.
Ruldoo, a character like Shakespearean Iago as noted by Syed Kashif Raza, maintains his place no less than the main character. We love him because of his psychological ambivalence. The readers, on one hand, are affected by all the tension created by the antagonists, while on the other hand, they are touched by the selfless efforts of Ruldoo in the name of friendship. The trilogy of Moodan, Ruldoo and Daani makes the novel a more deep and engaging story than it otherwise seems. The gradual sequence of events knits the atmosphere as an immersive one when we get invested in the future of all the characters as if they were real beings around us.
The beauty of characterisation is obvious, as we find that like Jane Austen, Gurdial has picked up his characters from a common family system – yet they symbolise the whole institution of married, unmarried, urban and rural life. The purity of all human emotions like love, likeness, hatred, jealousy, hope, fancifulness, friendship, separation, frustration and deprivation makes these characters relatable even to this age.
The description of nature is another striking aspect for Gurdial’s readers. Such description seems to be the writer’s favourite part, as Indian Punjab is full of lush green fields. The poetic description of the character sketch of Daani is also one of the fine accomplishments by the author.
Gurdial has divided and named the novel in different sections that evoke symbolic interpretations too. He has tried his best to bring together a contrast of good and evil that is present in many human types. We see how conventional cultural values sometimes strangulate the lives of people.
The work truly makes its place as one of the commendable examples from Punjabi to Urdu translations.