Japanese translations of Ghalib and Iqbal discussed
By Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: A discerning audience was treated to a moving speech made by Japanese scholar Prof Hiroji Kataoka on the topic of Â‘translations of Ghalib and Iqbal in Japan’ organised by the Idara-i-Yadgar-i-Ghalib and Pakistan-Japan Cultural Association (PJCA) Sindh at Ghalib Library on Saturday.
Writer Fatima Surraiya Bajia presided over the event.
Prof Kataoka in an animated but humble manner began his talk by thanking the Pakistani people for their moral support and good wishes that they had extended to the Japanese people after the earthquake that recently caused devastation in Japan. He told the gathering that in areas where the tragedy had struck there wasn’t enough food to supply to the victims, and extended his gratitude to those Pakistanis in Japan who had served them in difficult times. In a very touching manner in Urdu he described the current situation in Japan. He told how difficult it had become for him to move from his city to Tokyo for the acquisition of a visa for Pakistan because the communication system was disrupted after the earthquake. He said because of insufficient electricity the railway system was also not fully functional because of which it took him quite a while to get the visa. He mentioned where he was when the quake hit the country and said that when someone went to his university’s room to switch off the lights that he’d forgotten to turn off, he couldn’t open the door because all his books had collapsed and spread all over the place.
Talking about the translation work that he’d done, he said it was 15 years back that he had translated seven collections of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry into the Japanese language. Subsequently he translated Ghalib, and now Iqbal. He said in Japan many thought of Iqbal as a politician or philosophical thinker, but with his recent translations of Baang-i-Dara and Baal-i-Jibreel they’d be acquainted with Iqbal the poet. In a couple of years heÂ’ll also translate Zarb-i-Kaleem.
Prof Moinuddin Aqeel gave the background to Prof Kataoka and the body of his valuable work. He acknowledged the fact that the scholar had come to Pakistan at a time when his country was in mourning. He informed the gathering that the Japanese professor started his career by translating Manto’s stories and then moved to classical literature translating Diwan-i-Ghalib. He said on March 10, 2011 his translation of Baang-i-Dara was published and on March 20 (today) Baal-i-Jibreel’s translation would be released in Japan (so it was launched a day earlier in Pakistan). He said the professor had also worked, and was still working, on a project related to those who had migrated to Pakistan.
Fatima Surraiya Bajia appreciated the Japanese scholar and said he had done Pakistanis a great favour (ye hamarey muhsin hain). She said Urdu was not the language of kings, but was the language of Sufis. She said Prof Kataoka had a consuming passion for Urdu and was in love with it. She said his coming to Pakistan in such trying times was nothing less than a miracle. She described the Japanese nation as the most cultured and civilised people in the world and gave quite a few personal examples in that regard. She said it was noteworthy that in a situation where their country was suffering, the Japanese nation had refused to accept help from the outside world.
The programme was ably conducted by Dr Rauf Parekh. He told the audience that in 1971 Prof Kataoka was in Pakistan learning Urdu. Despite the war he did not leave Pakistan and stayed back. He then, with the permission of the professor, recounted how the professor’s love for Urdu got augmented. He said while the professor was studying he wasn’t particularly keen on the language. At the time he saw a girl who used to take the same train as the professor and became fond of her. He couldn’t express his love to her and every time he’d see her he’d be dumbfounded. One day when he entered Suzuki Takashi’s class he was teaching one of Krishan Chandra’s stories to his students. The story was Safaid Phool, in which a dumb boy falls in love with a girl and can’t express himself. The story made Kataoka realise the wide reach of Urdu literature and ever since dedicated himself to it. And now when you asked him what’s keeping him busy, he’d say, Â“Urdu, Urdu aur bus Urdu.”
In the end Hasan Mustafa thanked the participants of the programme.