Saar Sansaar
A Quarterly Magazine of Foreign Language Literatures in Hindi
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"Saar Sansaar" is a Vorstellung of Dr. Amrit Mehta for those lovers of world literature, who want to read their literature in Hindi - in an undiluted form, where the original text does not come to them through the filter of English. This is a modest effort to restore Hindi it's rightful glorious place in the world, whereby Hindi readers do not have to depend on some English and American translator to decide for them, what kind of literature from various foreign languages they should read.

With this issue "Saar Sansaar" is entering its 22nd year, and with this we are introducing 4 new translators, 2 translate from Russian, one from Arabic and one from Greek. The authors included in this issue are Zakariya Tameer from Syria, Subahi Fahnavi from Jordan, Alexander Khurgin from Russia, Wolfgang Dietrich Schnure from Germany, Ladislav Balek from Slovakia, Yorges yo-finos and Manos Hadijidakis from Greece. The serialized Biography of Günter Grass by Volker Neuhaus is also there. The Russian Translators are Vinay Kumar Ambedkar and Subhash Kumar Thakur, the Arabic translator is Akhtar Alam and Greek translator is Anil Kumar Singh. With the addition of these 4 new translators the number of new translators produced by SAARSANSAAR jumps to 92. All of them are teachers or research scholars from the Jawaharlal Nehru University. We welcome them in our "Saar Sansaar-family” and also wish them and all our readers, once again, the reading of the best of literature in this New Year.

For reading the magazine please click here.


Is there a famine of translators in other countries, who can translate directly from their mother tongue into Hindi? I have tried to answer this question – to some extent - by throwing light on the transgressions of institutions like Goethe Institute, South Asia Institute and Pro Helvetia. Some of the incompetent worthies, who have headed these institutions in India, have harmed Hindi and other languages not only in India, but also in their own country. I am reproducing here a mail from Germany, which had been lying in my inbox for more than one year - in an account, which was dormant for quite some time, and from which I was deleting my old mails. The subject of one of the mails alarmed me: It was: With reference to your polemic on corruption: This was the title of a long essay, written by me, which was published in 2 research journals - in Warsaw and Vienna:

Vorletzte Woche habe ich mein Abschlusszeugnis von der Universität Leipzig erhalten - und seitdem darf ich mich Indologe nennen. Das klingt erst einmal gut: Im Studium habe ich Hindi/Urdu, Indonesisch/Malaiisch, Persisch und Portugiesisch gelernt.

Seit Jahren bin ich Fan Ihrer Zeitschrift. Gern und oft habe ich die .pdf-Dateien von Ihrer Website heruntergeladen, durchblättert, und, wenn es die Zeit erlaubte, anhand der Hindi-Übersetzungen versucht zu verstehen, wie es funktioniert: "Wie sagt man es auf Hindi?"

Und nun zum Anlass meiner E-Mail: Ihre erneute Polemik gegen die Korruption im Literaturbetrieb, im speziellen gegen K. Satchidandan. Hierzu möchte ich einige Anmerkungen machen.

Last week I have received my Certificate – since then I can call myself Indologist. It's good to hear this. I have studied Hindi/Urdu, Bhasha Indonesia, Persian and Portuguese.

For years I have been a fan of your magazine. I have downloaded your pdf files with lots of enthusiasm, browsed through its pages, and whenever I have found time, I have tried to study your translations - to understand as to how what is done, "how it is said in Hindi?”

First of all let me talk about the problem of non-availability of German-speaking translators, who can translate into South Asian languages. You yourself have written, ”I do not know a European native speaker, also from the area of Indology, who can translate Indian literature directly into his mother tongue. O God! You wrote this in 2011, and in the meanwhile you have met Dagmar Markova. Apart from her, there are some more competent persons in Europe, but their number is negligible, and it was always negligible. Lutze's mistakes are covered up by a gang. The editor of the anthology titled "Schwarze Notizen” is Christina Oesterheld, Her Urdu is impeccable, That's why Oesterheld is dishonest for the rest of the world. No other Indologist has ever talked about this problem The reason for this is clearly the dominance of the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University over the rest of the Indology Institutes – financially, numericall and, structurally. Lutze and Oesterwald have worked in Heidelberg. But Heidelberg is not special in any way: In the area of regional research it is teeming with imposters.

An antithesis of Heidelberg is the Indology Institute of the University of Leipzig, where I have studied, when compared to Heidelberg, it does not have a reputation, perhaps a bad reputation it has. In fact, till a few years back Leipzig was the worst place for Indological Studies in the western hemisphere. Not only in the field of Sanskrit, but also for Hindi. Dr. Margot Gatzlaff, the predecessor of Kiehnle, has translated a lot from Hindi into German. But her principal area was Lexicography. Her Hindi-German Dictionary is in no way lesser than McGregor's Hindi-English Dictionary. But Ms. Gatzlaff became, at some point of time, 65 years old, and had to retire. By the way, I had never studied under her.

That's why I had to learn Sanskrit first of all from Franco (a disaster), after that from Kiehnle and then from a language teacher imported from India (an absolute disaster). The textbook used was Rupert Snell's "Teach Yourself Hindi”. This was the standard. Lekin yah standard kya hai? TYH is a rubbish book, there is no methodology there. Many important informations are not there. After having digested the TYH one cannot even say "phir milenge”. When the standard is TYH, then wherefrom good Hindi translators will come? Then one has to wait till the time an English edition is published. Like always, English is the typical channel for the translation of South Asian literature. Naturally Namita Gokhale may be having a different opionion, but in the end she can always say that she had made a subjective statement.

And that's how my study of Indology wascontinuing. My study began in 2004. As an M.A.student. After 6 months started the Bachelor-Master-System as per Bologna-reforms. Then I got stuck in the Leipzig University, and I could not shift to any other University. For me personally it became clear at the end of 2005 that I must do something. All the time professors were reprimanding the students, "This you cannot do, this you do not know” etc. I needed distance. So I began learning, out of curiosity, Malay as an optional subject at the Language Institute of the University. In August 2006 I received the Darmasiswa scholarship from the Indonesian government and left Germany for one year. Today I can speak Bhasha Indonesia and Malay fluently. But these two languages are, naturally, uninteresting for Indologists. Exception: the German Academic Exchange Service awards a grant to Sanskrit-experts to go to Indonesia, who go and then see the temples of Prambanan and Borobudur, and can, then, confirm in an article that these were great temples. Wow! They will never understand the Javan inscription. But who the hell is interested in this!

I took the intermediary exam after my return from Indonesia. In my exasperation I used C.M.Naims book "Introductory Urdu” to learn Hindi grammar. With Naim's help I was able to pass the examination. Moreover there was a new Hindi teacher, Ms. Ira Sharma. It was my good luck.

Still the atmosphere at the institute was becoming oppressive day after day. Under the regulations it was prescribed that students having Hindi as main subject had also to learn another Indian language. I opted for Marathi. A complete disaster! At that time I had to, in order to earn my daily bread, work in night shifts from Monday to Friday – in a brewery. Every day I was in a bad shape and dead tired, and went to study, just to remain a dimwit. I also remember: at the same time I had to attend the periods of Portuguese and Hindi. And work 8 hours every night. I said, "fuck off” and stopped going to Marathi classes. I had no strength to continue.

Instead I requested Prof. Kienhle's permission to learn modern Persian as the second Indian foreign language as an alternative . The Persian-course, which I did in 2008-09 was a redemption. For my Hindi too. It was a cure. The textbook for Persian was worse than Snell's TYH, but the teacher was wonderful. After learning Persian for one year I could speak Farsi fluently. After many years of studying Hindi I could not speak a single word. Persian worked here as a stabilizing factor. After finishing my Persian course I started learning Urdu-script in my free time. I was teaching myself. Modern Persian is basically written in Naskh, whereas Urdu is written in Nastaliq, which looks more beautiful. Additionally, the absence of space between many words Urdu looks more like Sanskrit. Anyway, since that time I could always use Urdu-dictionaries. I started understanding Hindi a little bit.

In January 2011 I applied for a course of Persian with a scholarship awarded by the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was by chance that I came to know about this scholarship. My application was accepted. In August 2011 I spent a full month in Iran. There were Indian students attending the same course, and in our free time we used to practice our Hindi. This was a lucky chance.

But the problem with Indology was not over. The German Academic Exchange Service never awarded me a scholarship for going to India, because my Professors never recommended my name. "Oh, you only speak bad Persian and are doing Urdu only.” Aha! This was told to me by Ms. Professor Kienhle. She knows neither Persian nor Urdu. And since I do not have money to spare, I have till now never been to India. But I am an Indologist.

Thanks to Ms. Prof. Kienhle I had to write my M.A. thesis twice. It was very difficult to agree on a theme. Finally I wrote the thsis on the Hindi translation of Jawaharlal Nehru's "Letters from a father to his daughter” by Premchand. But I wrote it in English. Without the permission of one's Professor it is not allowed in any University of Germany. I did not know this. Also I had not informed the professor about this: in order to avoid hearing stupid remark and waffle. I took over the responsibility of doing everything myself, beginning from methodology to the historical context and stylistic problems in the text. My motivation for M.A. thesis was fired by the fact that I wanted to improve my knowledge of Hindi. And I also wanted to have my peace with it. I would have never been able to write this thesis without my knowledge of Urdu and Persian languages. Going by the standards of western Indologists the knowledge of only Hindi was not sufficient for us.

Later I got the comments "Failed. Please write the thesis in German.” I did that. I wrote my thesis a second time. It was a real good thesis. Result: Grade in First paper 2.3 and in second paper 2.7. 2.3 was unfair, but 2.7 was also a joke. With grade 2.7 there were lies and improper remarks. The examiner of the second paper Prof. Dr.Schetlich cannot speak Hindi at all. She is a Sanskrit-Expert. At that point of time the Professor of Hindi Dr. Sharma was seriously ill. The institute had only these damned assholes. It is a pity that no other word can be used for them.

I was shocked. That's how the education of Indology is being imparted in Germany. No Indologist thought about the fact that I had to complete my M.A. also in another main subject (Portuguese philology was also not a nice experience...). And then the final exam of Indology was also nearing. I did not appear for an examination, where my examiners were going to be unfair and incompetent. Without completing my studies I could not leave the University. I waited for almost full one year, till the time when the old professors retired and vanished from there and new professors joined the institute. In the meanwhile Ms. Dr. Sharma had recovered from her illness, and the new people also came. My good luck: The final grade I got in the exam was 1.5.

So much for me and the situation at the Indological institutes. The future of Indology seems to be bleak. Nothing is left in Berlin, so to say (it is normal, it has remained only a capital city), and it is groaning.

And then coming back to corruption - I admit that from some distance Indian corruption does not , at all, look bad. In my opinion, the corruption in Indonesia is much worse.

An example is the Frankfurt Book Fair : This year Indonesia is the guest country here. In 2006 it was India.

The difference: Then a number of substantial things had happened, e.g. Alka Saraogi's "Kolkata via Bypass”'s German translation by Margot Gatzlaffs was published. Draupdi-Publication House was established in Heidelberg, even though I do not like the people surrounding it. However, the books published by them are worth reading. Satchidanand an does not seem to have received anything from them.


With every issue of your magazine you have been fighting against this sort of bureaucratic mess. Such a thing was never so easy, and will never be easy. I salute you with all respect. I feel happy to read how much labour you put in your work. It makes me happy, when you praise the translations of fairy tales, rendered by children, which I have read in your last issue. The truth is that the newcomers in every field face the greatest of problems, and they need encouragement and help. But I have rarely come across such a mind-set .


I have left some less relevant portions from the mail sent to me. The group, mentioned in the mail has a mammoth parallel squad functioning in India, which has, since long, been scathing Hindi in our country. It's not that the groups are unknown to each other, these two gangs are working in tandem, and are doing things, the parallels of which can be found in both the countries. The way the German professors of Hindi do not let their talented students thrive, there are Indian Professors of German who have destroyed the careers of many promising students. There are persons like Gulab Singh Bhati, who painstakingly compiled a matchless German-Hindi Proverbs Dicationary in the eighties, and there are others like Joe of the Kochi University, who are former students of Jawaharlal University, who can open a club of ex-students persecuted by Pramod Talgeri. There were diabolical attempts by such Indian Germanists, in cahoots with Goethe Institute and some local literati, to impose German on school students in India at the cost of Sanskrit and Hindi, and thye were partially successful too, but for a limited period. Lothar Lutze, who has been mentioned in this mail, certified these people as great scholars, and they in turn certified him as the greatest German Indologist, and due to the praise coming from a collective of Indian experts, Lutze was conferred with a Padmashri in India, whereas Talgeri has been conferred with Merck Prize and many other citations. It is a well-known truism that one can translate almost only in one's mother tongue, but the Indologists working in India not only translated from Hindi into German, but also from German into Hindi in association with resourceful, but, as far as German is concerned, almost illiterate translators of India. The money spent on getting these books translated and published belonged to certain German and Indian institutions, to the tax-payers of both the countries, and these so-called scholars ‘looted' laurels on the basis of many atrocious translations. Whosoever tried to come out with the truth was interdicted by an influential literary, academic and intellectual community. I pity the fate of those students, who study Hindi at the University level in Germany with TEACH YOURSELF HINDI prescribed as their textbook, and we thought that it was the fault of the new generation of Germans that they are not able to translate literature from Hindi.

-Amrit Mehta

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