LOST & FOUND IN TRANSLATION
By Kirat Bhattal(OS2003)
All math problems start with a set of givens. Here are mine. Schooled in English at The Lawrence School- Sanawar, speaker of broken Hindi and semi fluent Punjabi, thanks to a vocal and vociferous Sikh family. A total language proficiency score of two and a half languages- which is exactly why I remember the call for an audition in Chennai, for, lo and behold, a Tamil movie!
After finishing school, I managed to secure two major modelling campaigns; Safi and Lakme (score) and realized I was quite happy in front of the camera. So when I was called for the auditions I thought why not and hopped on the flight. I love travelling and what better than the fact that I could officially skip a few days of college and take a free trip to Chennai. Nothing against its lovely people but Chennai isn’t exactly on everyone’s list of dream destinations. (Plus the thought of eating masala vadas and coconut chutney may have been a big deciding factor.)
I wasn’t really keen on getting the gig, and honestly did not expect much since I didn’t speak one precious word of Tamil. Not surprisingly, I bungled my audition. To reiterate, the English medium educated, Punjabi speaking sardarni bungled an audition whilst trying to emote in Tamil. But life is strange. I actually landed the role. Yes, I landed the lead role in a Tamil film.
I should have been actually thinking - “Hey, wait a minute! This is all upside down and is not going to end well’. “But, No Sir” -I soldiered on, playing an undercover cop who in one scene dons a net sari with a gun tucked into her petticoat. I remember asking my director “If I’m a cop going undercover as a journalist then shouldn’t my gun NOT be visible”. He turned to me and said “Don’t worry; only the audience can see it”. “Hmmm, okay”. At one point during the scene I whip out my gun point it at someone and speak the most legendary dialogue I had the good fortune of mouthing … “ Daring is my weapon, dashing is my act”.
We had to do that scene about 10 times because its tough keeping a straight face through this logic defying dialogue, even more so when you find out that the character you are saying it to is apparently in a coma. Sometimes I look back and suspect that I was in a coma to agree to all of this.
Many such hilarious incidents followed, while filming in Europe one time, a co star turned to the local coordinator and with utmost sincerity asked “Are these trees natural or do they grow here?”
Many of the songs from my movies had been uploaded on You Tube and I remember going online to look for them and in the comments section. One of them had written and I’m going to quote him “she was my senior in my school.... god damn din expect this from u!!! lol “Well if he’s reading this right now, then- Goddamn I didn’t expect this from me either.
At some point I realized acting in movies was not good for the overall health of my sanity and not something I could spend the rest of my life doing. I had juiced it for all the fun and it was time to move on. Grateful, happy and a tad bit wiser for the experiences.
I then did the most amazing adventure reality TV show of my life. It was called ‘Life Mein Ek Baar” aired on Fox Traveller . The concept involved 5 girls travelling to South Africa and ticking things off our bucket lists. Everything from sky diving to bungee jumping, swimming with great whites and seals, to rapping on stage with a famous South African rapper. Now who gets to do all this and get paid for it too! It was exhilarating, rejuvenating and most importantly in a language I spoke fluently- English. Finally I understood what I was saying, even though most of the experiences actually left me speechless.
It was ironic that this project where I didn’t need a translator was still getting lost in translation. I had people come up and ask me “So who won?” Whaaaat ? It was fairly clear that this was a bunch of friends sharing experiences and not some sort of competition. Or was it not? Is it that when we feel we’re communicating the clearest is when we confuse people the most. I don’t remember this much confusion when I was a petticoat sporting, gun-wielding journalist threatening a comatose man.
My career since then has been a lot more straightforward; I recently anchored ‘Style and the City’ which is being aired in Fox Life and Star World. Yes, the schedules are sometimes grueling. 5 am call times, 12-18 hour work days, layers of make up and traipsing around little villages and towns in gowns and heels in the peak of summer isn’t pretty, but I have no complaints. I get to travel to remote, far-flung places and meet amazing artisans of dying art forms and in some way help resurrect these art forms and bring light to these craftsmen. Sure, people watch a 20 minute episode and think it’s easy work and anyone could do it but I’m just happy that I’m doing something I love and it’s well appreciated and more importantly it’s not getting lost in translation.
Kirat is a model, an actress and a TV anchor.
Ajeet Bajaj's ( S- 83) company Snow Leopard Adventures has been adjudged the best adventure company during the National Tourism Awards ceremony held on 18 Sep.
The prizes were given by the President of India. Another company of his, Adventure Nation (JV of Snow Leopard Adventures with Yatra .com) got the first prize in the Innovation / Tech category.
Congratulations from the OS Fraternity
Avtar Singh (OS90) is out with his 2nd book Necropolis. Genre-Fiction/Literary. Published by Harper and Collins, available in book stores and online. It has been translated into German and will be released worldwide in English next year.
About the book:
Razia: a creature of the night and a political player, a well-dressed clubber and a lover of poetry. She may even be hundreds of years old, almost as old as her home: Delhi, the city of tombs, at once majestic and in disarray.
She is muse and antagonist to DCP Sajan Dayal, whose centuries old roots lie in bureaucratic service. Assisting Dayal are Kapoor, a legend in the Delhi Police, and an idealistic young cop named Smita Dhingra, who, – unlike Kapoor – is from the elite Indian Police Service. As the novel progresses, the officers find their pursuit of a serial collector of fingers quickly spiralling into encounters with would-be vampires and werewolves, rampant sexual violence, the political pressures that attend every aspect of life in a capital city – and, at every turn, Razia.
A novel of unusual beauty, Necropolis weaves poetry, brothels, ministers and migrants into a heady, twisted and darkly entertaining tale, peeling back the layers from a city that is simultaneously in thrall to its past, hostage to its present and bitterly divided as to its future.
About the author:
Avtar Singh is the author of The Beauty of These Present Things. He has worked as a magazine editor in Mumbai and Delhi. He was Editor of Time Out Delhi, and is now Managing Editor of The Indian Quarterly. He lives in Delhi with his wife, son and singing dog.
Praise for the book:
This is a rare feat in so much of the fiction written by Indian writers writing in English; the tightrope between translating from the Hindi or other Indian language into English without letting the ear hear the false note, and rendering the English that is actually spoken in its own idiom without falling into caricature — that tightrope is so hard to walk without tumbling headlong into the waiting abyss of stilted, fake sounding dialogue. Singh manages it.
—Giti Chandra, Biblio
Avtar Singh’s Necropolis is an ode to ancient, medieval and Old Delhi, a romantic ballad that cuts across time, if not place, and melds features of classic detective fiction with those of the hard-boiled and roman noir in a style that is exquisitely the author’s.
—Sumana Mukherjee, Mint
In the typical detective novel, the crime is an aberration that has to be resolved so the world can be restored to pre-lapsarian innocence. But in Singh’s noir vision, the crimes are symptoms of a marvellous, diseased society. Solving one does not solve anything.
—Shahnaz Habib, Open magazine
“... the moody Gothic ambience of Necropolis, which in lyrical prose bemoans the demise of the Delhi of yore while it ponders New Delhi’s alienating newness...”—
Zac O’Yeah, Mint
“Singh creates atmosphere expertly... The novel’s sense of noir doesn’t end with the title. The tone of the interactions between characters is quiet yet hides dramatic undertones that exude mystery in both their imagery and their content.”—Elen Turner, www.kitaab.org
“Especially astute is Singh’s class commentary on Delhi society. Yet his critique is wry and often amusing, lighter in tone—although certainly not in substance—than much social commentary that occurs in contemporary Indian literature.”—Elen Turner, www.kitaab.org
“Necropolis is undoubtedly a memoir ... Avtar Singh’s love letter to Delhi.”—Naila Manal, www.milleniumpost.in
“Necropolis is fascinatingly contemporary, yet offers leisurely glimpses into Delhi’s history. It is part suspension of belief and part starkly real...”—Sarthak Ray, www.financialexpress.com
Babso Kanwar (OS91) a food historian , whose work was recently featured in Sunday Times of India – Digging for Delhi Lost Food Heritage.
To UD With Love
By Vasant Dhar (OS72)
Harish Dillon was particularly special to the batch of 72. We always knew the feeling was reciprocal although it took him over 40 years to say so in his February 6, 2015 article in the Tribune titled “My Batch of 1972.” He started his essay by asking:
“What do I say about a group of children whom I taught 43 years ago and who still remain an important part of my thoughts and feelings? Every time I write a new book, why do I wish for them to read it and tell me what they think? And this, when they have been gone four decades and more, and I am not in 'touch' with most of them! What made them so special?”
What made us so distinct to him was exactly what made him special to us. We were all kids – he wasn’t much older than us, and his bonding with us happened naturally as we jointly explored how to learn. It was his first teaching gig, and he didn’t pretend he knew the best way to teach. He didn’t teach through books but encouraged us to think for ourselves, making learning an exciting adventure. He was non-judgmental. Each child was an important person who could make an important contribution to the thought process of unravelling a text. His touch was light and he laughed and praised easily and often. We were at his house regularly and he had a unique relationship with everyone in our batch. We joked about his atrocious handwriting and the nickname we gave him, UD, because the H in his signature looked like a U!
Harish Dhillon loved us, individually and collectively, and we loved him right back. This is the plain truth, without exaggeration. He made us feel safe and protected. He brought out the best in us, he made us want to be the best of what we could be. According to Nani Palkivala, the eminent jurist, what makes a person great is his ability to make everyone feel great around him. This was UD.
Years later, when he would send us his manuscripts to read, we returned the favor eagerly. His latest book, “Of Cabbages and Kings,” is pure Harish, fusing the essence of Sanawar with his memories as a teacher which began with us in 1972.
I met Harish for the last time in June at his charming house in Dharampur overlooking the mountains towards Sabathu. He was in obvious pain but he was stoic and made a great effort to be interested in my life and inquired about my classmates. We reminisced about Sanawar. He gave me his book which I read late into the night up on the hilltop, unable to contain my laughter, reliving shared memories through that distinct Sanawar lingo that lives deep inside us forever. When I heard of his death I felt a deep sadness at the finality of the loss even though I knew in June that we had probably said goodbye for the last time.
It has been a special privilege to be part of your life Harish. We will miss you every day. Thank you for molding us in who we are today.
Lt Col Gurmeet Singh Oberoi, (Toni) Himalaya House 1962-1966 and for the Armed forces circle 37th ex-NDA Juliet Squadron passed away on 11 September 2015 in Chennai where he was undergoing treatment.
Heartfelt Condolences to the family and may his soul rest in eternal peace.
"Commissioned into the "Queens Own" Bengal Sappers, 62 Engineer Regiment in December 1970 he saw active battle during the 1971 Bangladesh war, wherein the regiment cleared and sanitized the air strip at Commila and Dhaka for the preparation and eventual signing of the instrument of surrender by Lt. Gen J.S.Aurora from Lt. Gen A.K Niazi in the weeks leading up to the 19 December 1971.
A 37-Course ex-NDA Juliet Squadron, 46-Regular IC 24791 inductee into the army in December 1970 "Toni", as he was fondly know to all and sundry, was a gregarious vivacious personality, full of life & laughter and effervescence.
Despite lady luck having given him an extraordinary raw deal with the tragedy of his challenged young son, from birth, Lt. Col. Oberoi never gave up living life to the full.
A keen sportsman, a polo and riding - "BLUE" from NDA and IMA, Toni was an avid golfer winning many tournaments.
Post retirement, on compassionate grounds in 1991, he designed and built golf courses in all parts of India.
Having lost his wife in December 2013 he is survived by a son 29, a daughter 25 and her challenged twin brother.
As a fine officer and a thorough gentleman he will always be remembered as ready to assist anyone in need with his exemplary generosity and ever helpful nature.
He will be sorely missed -- Rest in Peace
Copyright ©2011 THE OLD SANAWARIAN SOCIETY
Site credit NZTechnologies