Friday, December 23, 2011

Maybil and Myself by Patras Bokhari

میبل اور میں is one of Patras Bokhari's celebrated essays from the book Patras Ke Mazameen (پطرس کے مضامین). Here is a small translation effort on the piece where line by line transformation from Urdu to English was kept in consideration. Of course the vastly different lexical rules of both the languages make it impossible for this metamorphosis to be both accurate and retain the original meaning at the same time but hope is for the minimal loss of integrity. (Good enough as an excuse for blunders? :P)
I would also like to thank a special friend for the inspiration and reviewing of the material.

Maybil was enrolled in girl’s college, but both of us took same subjects in Cambridge University. Therefore we used to come across each other during lectures. Besides that we were friends as well. We used to share a few interests amongst ourselves. She also had a liking for arts and music, I too claiming similar tastes, used to go with her to some galleries and concerts. We were both students of English literature. We used to argue and discuss about books. When anyone of us came to discover a new book or a new author, they would certainly inform the other. And then we both collectively put forward good and bad remarks about it.

But in all of this unison and conjunction there surely was some disharmony. We were both raised in the twentieth century. Both did agree to man and woman’s equality,  however in our expressions and sometimes in our behavior we did contradict this most assuredly. Due to some circumstances, Maybil would think of the tolerances as her right, the things that would only be provided to an individual of the weak gender; and at times I would act in an assertive and guiding manner. This meant that being a man this was my sole duty. In particular this feeling would pain me a lot that Maybil’s knowledge was far greater than mine. This would hurt my manly honor. Sometimes within my body my Asian ancestral blood would provoke me and my heart would betray the modern traditions and tell me that man is the greatest of all creations. This way Maybil would emphatically express man and woman’s equality. Furthermore, at times it looked as though she thought of women to be the guides of the universe and men as the raisings of the Earth.
But how could I deny the fact that Maybil would buy ten to twelve books in a day, and after a week or so she would come and place them in my room saying that she has read them all, we will talk about them after you too are finished reading.
First of all it was impossible for me to go through ten to twelve books in a week but suppose that, for the sake of men’s honor even if I would sacrifice my night’s sleeps reading them but still they would contain two or three books about philosophy or criticism and in order to understand them I would require quite some time. In the end after a week’s effort it was obvious that I would falter in front of a woman by accepting my defeat in this race. As long as she would be seated in my room I would keep listening to her in an awkward fashion and she would talk in a very preaching manner, raising her eyebrows all the while. When I would open the door for her or offer lighter to lit her cigarette or empty my most comfortable chair for her, she would accept my services not as a civilized offer but as one bestows respect to their teacher.
After Maybil left, my disgrace would transform into rage. Sacrificing life and wealth is easy but for the sake of self esteem even the most virtuous person would for once come down to using illicit means. Consider it my moral ineptness. But I too was in such a condition. The next time I met Maybil, I started giving out my opinions about the books that I haven’t even read. But whatever I would say, I would remain cautious, not uttering anything about the details, distantly criticizing it and very cunningly and intelligently molding my opinions into modernism.
When Maybil asked me about a novel, I would humbly reply:
“Yes, it is good, but not so much. Author wasn’t able to gather the essence of modernization quite effectively. But still some points are unique, not bad, not bad.”
I would glance towards Maybil but she wasn’t able to pick up my deception. About drama I used to say:
“Yes, I have read it but I am still not able to decide that whatever a reader feels, will that remain intact after watching this on stage or not? What do you think?”
And like this my dignity remained integral and I would transfer the conversation towards Maybil.
I would say about the books on criticism:
“This critic seems to be influenced by some of the critics of the eighteenth century. But he is uncertain at some places, very slightly though. His demeanor is interesting about poetry, very interesting, very interesting.”
Gradually I attained mastery in this skill. The manner in which I could efficiently and delicately talk about these books I myself was amazed at that. But this unsatiated my feelings.
Now I wasn’t suppressed by Maybil, she too had to appreciate my knowledge. If she used to read ten books in a week then I would only take two days to express my opinions on all these books. Now there was no reason to be ashamed in front of her. My manly soul heightened by this victory. Now when I used to empty my chair for her or lit the lighter, it was with a sense of gratefulness and superiority such that an experienced young man protects a weak child.
Those who take the just paths will not appreciate my fraud, so let them be, but at least I would like appreciation from the male stratum. The fair sex would condemn me twice on this because first off, I used lies and deception and secondly I played false to a woman. To comfort them I would like to say, believe me, that in loneliness I have damned myself many a times. At times I even came to hating myself. It also became hard to overlook that I keep on coercing my intellect without even reading, Maybil on the other hand shares her thoughts after actually reading all these books. Certainly she does have an upper hand over me just that I don’t allow my inferiority to become evident. But it is the truth that I don’t read those books, my illiteracy may not be evident to her but it is a reality to me. With this reckoning, my satisfied heart would once again stumble and I would again look upon myself as a lesser being as compared to a woman. Previously, I used to consider Maybil a victor of knowledge. Now, in comparison to me, she seemed to be a goddess of purity and righteousness.
I become soft hearted during illness. In condition of fever while going through some commercial novels, even then sometimes I start to weep. After getting well I laugh at my own weakness but it’s not very evident during illness. I was unfortunate in that during those days I suffered from mild influenza , it wasn’t a fatal one, not too painful either, yet the remembrance of my past life’s minor sins made me feel as if they were major ones. When I thought of Maybil, my subconscious severely condemned me and I became restless for a very long time in my bed.  In the evening Maybil came in with some flowers. She inquired about my health, gave me medicine, felt my forehead with her hand. On this I couldn’t hold my tears back.  I said “Maybil, for God’s sake forgive me”. After this I confessed my wrongdoings and in order to punish myself I told her every minute detail of my cunningness. I named every single book that I didn’t read but gave out long and heightened speeches about. I said “Maybil, the three books you gave me last week, I have argued so much with you about them. But I didn’t even read a single word from them. I should have said something that uncovered my fraud.”
She replied, “No”.
I said, “For instance, I didn’t even read that novel, whatever I was blabbering about the characters that was all made up.”
She said, “It wasn’t wrong either”.
I said, “Regarding the plot I said that it was a bit weak. Was that true as well?”
She said, “Yes, plot is in fact weak at some places”.
After this both of us laughed at my past craftiness. As she was about to leave, she said “So these books, should I take them back?”
I said, “Give this astray man a chance to rectify himself. I haven’t read these books but I do plan to read them now. Leave them here. You have already gone through them.”
She replied, “Yes, I have read them. Ok, I’ll leave them here.”
After she left, I opened up these books for the first time. All three of these books had numerous uncut pages. Maybil too hadn’t read them!”
I don’t have any doubt left about the equality of men and women.