Friday, September 17, 2010


(From prologue of Hoor Menaka)

HOOR MENAKA: THE SEDUCTRESS While reviewing my first book, “Wit & Humour of Haryana”(1991), Mr. Khushwant Singh had observed that “dialects are absolutely untranslatable”. The present endeavour to translate and adapt a ‘Swang’ (Play) has its seeds in Mr. Khushwant Singh’s endorsement and encouragement.
Choice of a play of the legendary Pt. Lakhmi Chand was very natural then. Of all his works, I selected ‘Hoor Menaka’ for translation and adaptation since I was moved with the predicament of the heroine in the first instance, used by the Devtas themselves, to be precise Indra; and in the second, to be left alone to fend for herself, repenting on her bartered away virtue, and lost womanly dignity.
As if to add insult to injury, the daughter born out of an alliance between a hard-pressed fairy and a gullible sage, having been deserted by both, and taken care of only by Kanva, a bird, left me overwhelmed with concern for our daughters.
The present document is my personal tribute to destitute women and the endangered species i.e. the girl-child herself. I gainsay, that it’s a matter of pride for us all to look into the mythological background of ‘Bharat’ after whose calling was our great country was named, was the son born unto the same deserted girl-child of Vishwamitra and Menaka, who was later known as Shakuntala.
That the play ‘Hoor Menaka’ could not be enacted for more than 4-5 times by Pt. Lakhmi Chand himself,was because of the fact that the contemporary rural society, particularly of Haryana, did not appreciate a plot, involving making a woman lose her virtue, a saintly figure fall from grace and a girl-child abandoned in the jungles—unattended, uncared and unaccounted. The fact remains, why do we pride ourselves in killing for honour today?
Since I can claim this to be the first ever adaptation of a Haryanvi Swang in English, I wish to share the intricacies involved in the effort; most important being the technique of Swang, which is less diction and more articulation. As a genre, Swang invariably has to have a Sootradhaar managing the stage, directing actors how to live a character, simultaneously remoulding to enter into a character that he himself has to play as a narrator.
For me, even Pt. Lakhmi Chand became a character in the adaptation-plot. Accordingly then, I tried to retain the true character of a Swang having its format with ingredients like Commentary (Vaarta), Couplet (Doha) and Verse (Gadhya). I marvel at the maestro’s dexterity and spontaneity using in the rhyme schemes employed in various Literatures all over the world.
Hoor Menaka in your hands may have deficiencies in sequencing, architecture, faithful conversion of folk idiom and wisdom, yet this very humble creation of mine will surely benefit the readers of English, and will bring alive to them, a whole panorama of folk lore and folk literature.
I am indebted to my family and friends who encouraged me to take up this trivial-looking but momentous task which will now be judged by the interest readers and experts in the field.
Rajbir Deswal