Book Review: Madhav Hada’s ‘Meera Vs Meera’

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By Atiqa Kelsy

Meera vs Meera is the first book I picked up in the freezing early weeks of this year to keep myself mentally warm and agile. I walked through the twilight struck alleys of history and explored Meera – the famous bhakti poet, folk saint, feminist poet, and empowered feudal woman. The list of adages attributed to her are endless.

Meera Vs Meera is a delightful translation of a critically acclaimed book Pachrang Chola Pahar Sakhi Ri by Prof. Madhav Hada. The book tries to explore and mirror with greater accuracy while adding a more human side to the myriad images of Meera that exist not only in the public memory of the people of Rajasthan specifically and India at large but also the ones that are reflected in historical accounts, folk narratives and even the popular forms of media.

Prof. Pradeep Trikha has taken up the daunting challenge of translating the already well-written and thoroughly researched book into English to enable the kaleidoscopic ensemble of Meera reach the English readership, thus enlarging its purview to almost a global level. As rightly said by the literary and cultural theorist George Steiner, “Without translation, we would be living in provinces bordering on silence.”

A reading of the first few pages itself, gives the reader a glimpse of the gravity of translation and the insurmountable obstacles that Prof. Trikha must have faced. The translation flows uninhibited which creates a fine deception of words flowing effortlessly out of the translator’s pen. Yet, to a keen and watchful reader, the hindrances are obvious. To render the vernacular and folk flavour in another language as culturally different as it could be is a road with endless impasses.

The book tries to recreate the ever-elusive human side of the historical character of Meera that has been canonised, romanticised, popularised over the centuries depending upon the type of lens that the creator used. The book puts forth a whole new aspect of Meera – the person through a well-researched and balanced use of historical sources, regional evidence, religious discourses, folk narratives and Meera’s poetry. The translation carefully presents the nuances of the persona of Meera through eloquent descriptions with an intelligent blend of the use of appropriate vernacular vocabulary. Prof. Trikha has been successful in maintaining the cultural ethos of the times by choosing the right regional words presented in italics with their translation in parenthesis that are able to put across the meaning skilfully. The choice of these words also reflects the vital linguistic decisions that he must have taken to preserve the original flavour of the book without letting his personality being reflected in the book. Being a writer, critic, and poet himself, it must have been a tightrope walk not to let his voice take over.

The immense literary and critical value of the translation cannot be denied, given the fact that Meera’s human side had always been overlooked in an attempt to portray her on the antipodes of a scale ranging from being saintly devoted to a lovelorn woman. The translation will add a whole new human facet to the existing prismatic images of Meera, a perspective that had been conspicuously missing in the existing accounts.

Trying to know Meera is like waking right into the middle of the famous Sheesh Mahal. The person right in the centre is reflected in the countless mirrors. It is so tempting to get lost in those dazzling reflections and forget the real source – the person. Meera Vs Meera is an attempt to help us focus back on to the person and not the dazzling images. The aptness of the title and the cover page cannot be overemphasised. The book is first of its kind – an attempt to bring the real Meera of her times face to face with her various reconstructions down the ages to suit different times and needs.

Overall, whether you are a lover of history or savour folk narratives and their retelling or have a straightforward respect for pure truth, Meera Vs Meera is just the right book to begin your journey with words in 2021. Go grab it and drown yourself in the feudal world to come up with the pearl that Meera will always be – but this time with her human side!

Bio:
Dr. Atiqa Kelsy, Head, Department of English, St. Xavier’s College, Hathroi Fort Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

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