I was reading some things about translation – at woods lot and open brackets. And thinking of my own poor attempts to communicate here, never mind making art.
I thought of the time I went to Calcutta’s Park Street Cemetery with a friend who spoke only Gujerati and Hindi. The cemetery is a wonderful and mysterious place, full of British Raj history. Hemu had never been there, first, because she did not sightsee in her own city; but also, perhaps, because Hindus cremate their dead, and preferably within 24 hours of death. The thought of so many dead bodies lying just below the soil was oppressive to her. Hemu read on a gravestone the word "decayed" and asked me what it meant. I didn't know the exact word, so I said in Hindi, "When someone dies, his body becomes dirt. His face goes and only bones and teeth are there. The body becomes only bones." It must have sounded absurd. Then she asked me about "This thought and this alone/Your friends have left to mitigate their Moan,” and I had to admit my incompetence.
If I had to say this in Tamil it would be even worse. (I am about to give a laugh to any Tamil speaker who might read this:) Yaro settumbothu avarudaiya udambu odinju man mathiri ayidum... “When someone dies his body breaks and becomes like earth...” It’s not even grammatical.
I bow most humbly to all translators.