Disharmony in Hindi to English Translation: An Analytical Study of Khushwant Singh’s Translation of Munshi Premchand’s Short Story Eidgah | January 2018 | Translation Journal

January 2018 Issue

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Disharmony in Hindi to English Translation: An Analytical Study of Khushwant Singh’s Translation of Munshi Premchand’s Short Story Eidgah

Abstract: Translation is a practice which communicates the source-language text by using the linguistic means of the target-language text. While doing so, the translator sets a goal to reach to the utmost proximity in terms of various linguistic parameters. This paper attempts to critically acclaim the English translation of Munshi Premchand’s well-known short story “Eidgah.” There have been more than one English translations of “Eidgah,” however, this paper takes into consideration the translation by eminent litterateur Khushwant Singh. During the course of this paper, the disharmony noted at various levels in the TLT as opposed to the SLT is foregrounded.

Keywords: Hindi-English translation, Eidgah, Munshi Premchand

1. Introduction and Literature Review:

Translation is a practice which communicates the source-language text (SLT) by using the linguistic means of the target-language text (TLT). In other words, translation is the transmittal of text from one language into another. The practice of translation emerged as a need to strengthen human relations and is as old as the cross-cultural interaction. Over the last few centuries, translation has been regarded as a key practice in the field of literature as it widens the readers span worldwide.

There have been various approaches to define translation. Many researchers have considered translation to be an operation in which the meaning of the text is interpreted and an equivalent text is produced carrying the same meaning in the target language. Similarly, Bassnett (2014) defines translation on the basis of “meaning” (p. 21). The process of translation, according to One Hour Translation, involves the “interpretation of meaning of the text and producing the same meaning in another language.” On similar lines, Das (2008) propagates that translation involves the “transference of meaning from Source Language (SL) to the Target Language (TL)” (p. 3).

In their respective works, linguists have foregrounded several types of translation. This paper, however, is majorly concerned with literary translation. One of the primary characteristics of literary translation is that it includes the transmittal of aesthetic features along with the meaning of the SLT. For a similar reason, Abdellah (2002) considers translation as “a science, an art, and a skill.” According to him, translation is directly proportional to the competence of the translator where “the richness of vocabulary, depth of culture, and vision of the translator” evidently affects the translation.

An acceptable literary translation always includes the context around which the SLT is woven as well as the linguistic tools using which the SLT is fabricated. A translator must possess an explicit knowledge of the rules of grammar of two languages, their idioms and writing conventions. In his work, El Shafey (1985) underscores that a good translation is achievable if the translator possesses a good understanding of the grammar, vocabulary and theme of the SLT. According to him, the translator should have the ability to reconstitute the SLT into the TLT in a way that it captures the style, atmosphere and ease of the original composition (p. 93).

Although the field of translation studies has come up with various constructive suggestions for the translators, translating a literary text is indisputably a strenuous task and demands high-levels of dexterity. At the very beginning, the translators keep both the SLT and TLT in mind and try to bring out a perfect translation. However, in the procedure, it becomes difficult for the translators to decode the complete text; therefore, they take use of their own views and endeavors to translate accordingly.

2. Munshi Premchand’s “Eidgah”:

Munshi Premchand is regarded as the one of the finest writers for his exemplary creation in Hindi and Urdu literature. His stories peep into his sheer brilliance as he tracks the growth of his characters, their ambitions and priorities in life. His works throw a light into the psyche of the rural Indian society and its members. Out of many short stories that he has composed, “Eidgah” is one of the well-known ones. Set in a village backdrop, it is a story about the bonding that builds between a four-year-old protagonist Hamid and his grandmother Ameena. It narrates Ameena’s concern for Hamid when he goes out to Eidgah all by himself and deftly exhibits the struggle of Hamid with his own little self to overcome his desires for sweets, games, and toys in order to buy a pair of tongs for his grandmother.

Due to its strong and amiable subject, “Eidgah” has attracted many translators since its publication. In this paper, the translation rendered by eminent novelist Khushwant Singh has been analyzed.

3. Analysis of the Translation of “Eidgah”:

As discussed above, producing a good translation poses several snags for translators. Some of these snags that were unveiled during the analysis of the translation of “Eidgah” have been highlighted in the following discussion. The discussion has been categorized based on the type in which these snags were observed.

3.1 Tone:

The tone of SLT conveys a strong message on behalf of the author about the characters and the setting they are placed in. While translating, a translator must keep this tone in mind in order to do justice with the translation. Often a translator fails to produce an equivalent structure in target language text (TL) with respect to its tone.

“Eidgah” is set in the countryside of rural India. The story is characterized by typical Premchand’s style where the narration comes straight from the heart of the protagonist, a four-year-old Muslim child. The tone of the text is rustic, rooted deep into the flavor of Indian villages and peasant life. At times, SLT depicts a satirical and teasing tone which is mostly used to foreground the conversations between friends and acquaintances. This peculiar characteristic of SLT got diminished during the translation as the translator was unable to capture this rusticity in the TLT.

For example,

“तब देखेगा, मोहसिन, नूरे और िम्मी कह ॉँ िे उतने पैिे ननकालेंगे|”
“Then he will have more than Mahmood, Mohsin, Noorey and Sammi.”

In the above sentences, the SLT involves a piqued and satirical tone of a child who waits for his parents to return and bring along toys and gifts for him. But in the TLT, it turns out to be a flat statement, and hence, an emotion attached with it is lessened.

Similarly, in an instance, Mohsin taunts Hamid of his ignorance using a taunting tone in SLT, but this tone gets dropped in TLT when translated into an amazement. This has caused the loss of the intent of the author to convey the indirect sarcasm in the utterance.

“जनाब, आप हैं ककि फेर में!”
“Mister, don’t you know?”

Another interesting finding that came up while analyzing the two texts is regarding the swearing and slangs in the SLT. Vernaculars are deeply connected to the socio-cultural setting in which they are used. This intense association creates an impediment for the translators in their route to reach equilibrium with the SLT. For instance, a curse used by one of the characters in the story has been literally translated in the TLT. This has resulted into the loss of the tone which is peculiar to rural India.

“नानी मर जाए”
“mother’s mother died”

Besides satirical and rustic tone, the translator also faced difficulties in imparting the innocence of the infant’s babbling. In the story, when Mahmood bought his soldier home, his younger brothers started marching and crying like a watchman in a babbling manner “छोनेवाले, जागते लहो,” which was translated as “Shleepers, keep awake.” Although the translator has attempted well to signify the babbling by misspelling sleepers, it fails in carrying the intended tone.

At the morphological level, Premchand has dexterously used words in order to maintain the rural tone in his story. On several occasions, he has used distinctive words which reflect that the characters emerge from a rural depth. For instance, Premchand has used “कै” in place of “ककतना” as a quantity interrogator. The translator, on the other hand, could only render it using the standard form available in the target language i.e. “how much,” which has caused the diminishing of the native essence of the story.

3.2 Lexical Items:

Disharmony in translation is also witnessed at the level of morphemes or words. The problem occurs due to the socio-cultural codes behind the words in SLT. These codes cannot be transferred into the TLT accurately which has caused certain loopholes in the translation. Several words in the story are rooted into the culture of Indian community and bear no equivalence in the TLT. The translator has made an effort to search some near substitutes for these items and rendered them accordingly, but these TL items have failed to denote the exact connotation. Some of such examples are “िानन- पानन” as “fodder,” “तोपप” as “cap,” “गोटा” as “golden thread,” “लोटा” as “tiny brass pot,” “िेवैयों” as “vermicelli pudding,” “भड़कीले” as “better,” “सभश्ती” as “water carrier,” “तवा” as “hot iron plate,” “दामन” as “apron” and “मशक” as “water bag.” In such cases where lexical items are culturally bound, their translation often results in detaching the local flavor from the text.

3.3 Syntax:

During the analysis of the translation, it was also observed that the rendering of certain sentences has been inaccurate, thereby causing a loss of the intended meaning. There is an instance in the story where Mahmood’s curative skills are referred to. This reference differs significantly in the SLT and the TLT. While SLT reflects the sudden awareness of Mahmood of his ability to cure people, the TLT denotes as if Mahmood had been practicing his curative skills since past.

“महमूद को आज ज्ञात हुआ कक वह अच्छा डाक्टर है”
“Mahmood being a bit of doctor himself”

3.4 Idioms:

One of the major challenges in translations is the translation of figurative language. The SLT is embraced with several idioms which has increased the literary value of the text. Since most idioms are directly related to the cultural context of the language, this use of idioms has caused significant difficulties for the translator. For instance, the translation of the expression, which, in the story, describes the riches of the greedy Chaudhri, “कुबेर का धन भरा होना” has been done descriptively as “pockets bulging with coins like, the pot bellied Kubera, the Hindu God of wealth.” Since this idiom is connected with cultural and mythological significance, the translator has supplemented it with a brief explanation. Although the idiom has lost its literary essence in the TLT, the translator has done commendably to maintain the meaning of it.

Another interesting finding is with reference to a common expression used in the SLT “राई का पहाड़ बना लेना’ which means making fuss about nothing. The translator has preferred to translate this expression literally as “turn a mustard seed onto a mountain.” This translation might appear to be obscure for those readers who are unaware of the SL phrase.

4. Conclusion:

Translation is a practice in which the meaning of a text is carried from one language to another. It is a practice which involves the succession of two major processes—the interpretation of SLT and the production of TLT. The merit of the outcome of these two processes is determined by the capacity of the translator. While many types of translation can be achieved effectively, literary translation poses significant challenges for the translators as the translators are required to transmit the meaning of the text without diminishing the literary essence of SLT.

Over the years, the field of translation studies has acquired several useful propositions for the translators. It is certain that these propositions have ameliorated the reliability of the contemporary translations. However, as this paper has highlighted, there are still some areas which demand refinement so that the disharmony between SLT and TLT can be abridged.


Abdellah, A. S. (2002). What Every Novice Translator Should Know. Translation Journal.
Bassnett, S. (2014). Translation Studies. New York: Routledge- Taylor and Fracis Group.
Das, B. K. (2008). A Handbook of Translation Studies. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers.
El Shafey, F. A. M. (1985) Compounding in English and Arabic, Implications for Translation Methodology. M.A Thesis, Faculty of Arts, Cairo University.
Idgah-Hindi-Premchand. (n.d.). Retrieved from Archive:
Idgah-English-Premchand. (n.d.). Retrieved from Archive:
The Linguistic Approach to Translation. (n.d.). Retrieved from One Hour Translation:

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