Rudrani Gangopadhyay‘s translation of Vinod Kumar Shukla’s two poems (From Hindi to English)

Bio-note for author of original work: Vinod Kumar Shukla was born on 1 January 1937 in Rajnandgaon, Madhya Pradesh, and is one of the most distinguished writers in the contemporary Hindi literary tradition. He has written three novels: Naukar Ki Kameez (1979), which was made into a movie by Mani Kaul, Khilega To Dekhenge (1994) and Deewar Mein Ek Khirkee Rahati Thi (1996). Naukar Ki Kameez and Deewar Mein … have been translated into English. His first collection of poetry, Lagbhag Jai Hind, was published in 1971. Other collections of poetry include Vah Aadmi Chala Gaya Naya Garam Coat Pehankar Vichar Ki Tarah (1981), Sab Kuch Hona Bacha Rahega (1992), Kavita se Lambi Kabita (2001), and Atirikt Nahin (2002). Shukla’s poetry is marked by the simplicity and precision of expression. Gajanan Madav Muktibodh, one of the most prominent Hindi writers of the 20th century, was an important literary influence of Shukla’s. Vinod Kumar Shukla’s contribution to Hindi literature has earned him a number of awards, including the Shikhar Samman, the Muktibodh Fellowship and the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award. In 2023, he won the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International literature.

No one incomplete is ever whole

No one incomplete is ever whole

As another new begins

a new incomplete is lost

So many from the beginning

that a count would also remain incomplete

But this life –

full of unfinished incompletes

can be considered whole, not incomplete

so life could be lived completely

In this complete life

Even in the moment before my death

I could start a new poem

Like a poem from long before my dying

Like a poem that is life’s own first poem

No new incomplete should be thought to be the end.

My own aloneness

My own aloneness

I put amidst each of the lonely

and make it into an us.

For the sake of poetic expression

I transgress grammars

and say it like a Bihari would

That “we are coming”

For this companionship of words

In Chattisgarhi too – we’re a-coming along.

You are an us

They are an us too.

Rudrani Gangopadhyay is a doctoral candidate at the Program in Comparative Literature at Rutgers University. In her spare time, she translates, writes things that are not her dissertation, co-hosts a podcast on Bollywood, and compulsively gathers pop culture trivia.

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