Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Savarkar's Shackles

“Fetters forever encircling the Feet of our Desire—
Who forges those social fetters,
That impose the laws of decorum?”
- V. D. Savarkar, Shackles
Hi, Everyone! Savarkar’s poem Bedi is very deceptive—not very long and with short sentence structure. Reading it I even felt that it was easy to grasp. That illusion, of course, lasted only until the moment I tried to translate it.
The genius of Savarkar—that rhythm, those speaking yet economical words!—coupled with the genius of the language was really impossible for me to reproduce in translation.
The words of this poem are really the tip of the iceberg. There is a deep philosophy behind them. It took me a very long time (and many scrapped attempts) to get a handle on translating the dialogue-style of the poem without putting in my interpretations.
" उजळित उजळित जें I काय करीं
लालिसी तूं दिवसभरी
      बंदी, चांदीचे I किंवा ते
      अलंकार सोनेरी ?"
अजि नचि I केवल ती I लोखंडी
बेडी माझी, खंडी
      जखडोनी माझ्या I या पायां
      स्वेच्छ गती जी चंडी
"फोडुनि तोडुनि जी I जाळावी
तीच कशी उजळावी
     आपण अपुलिची I रे बेडी ?
     हौस तुझी ही वेडी !"
सुटते सुटते ही I नचि हो ती
परि जोंवरी तोंवरतीं
     गंजे ती तरि कीं I गांजी या
     अधिक आपल्या पायां
"चरणासि  सतत इच्छेच्या I जी वेढी
डि कवण विधिनिषेधांची I ही बेडी "  
जाणे कोण अजी I निश्चित तें
      परंतु कीं मज गमतें
इच्छे घडि त्याची I इच्छाची
वा बेडी तदिच्छेची ! 
“O how you polish them, over and over,
Pampering them all day!
What think you —
Ornaments of silver and gold they are?”
My iron fetters—not just for today are they here!
O, break these shackles, do
They destroy my free will to move so!
“Fit only to be shattered and burnt they are—
Why then lavish care upon our very own fetters?
‘Tis an insane fancy you cherish!”
Break they will one day,
For ever they are not! Until then
Why let the fetters rust?
That will only add to the distress.
“Fetters forever encircling the Feet of our Desire—
Who forges those social fetters,
That impose the laws of decorum?”
Who knows that today? Ordained it be.
But think so do I,
We have the power to choose betwixt
Desire or Fetters for that Desire!
Most difficult of all were the last lines of the poem! Every week I would come back to them. Every week I would gaze at them for a long time and change what I had written. Finally, inspiration struck one day, and I nailed them down—but I did come this close to giving up! Now when I look at my lines I wonder what all the agony was about.

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