Preface to Punjabi translation of Mary Tylor’s ‘My Years In Indian Prisons’

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In memory of another woman of ‘foreign origin’, who made India her home and Indian hospitality offered her prison and who then wrote ‘My years in Indian Prisons’.

Translator’s Preface

Chaman Lal

In the end of 1977, after reading ‘My years in Indian Prisons in Hindi, my first reaction was that this book should be published in Panjabi. To many friends, I recommended this book and actually made them read it. At that time some portions of it were published in Panjabi journals. From the Hindi publisher of the book, it was known that Mrityubodh was doing the Panjabi translation of this book, so a year or two passed and the book was not published in Panjabi. Then it was known that Surjit Hans is translating this book in Panjabi. Surjit Hans’s interview with Mary Tylor, published in ‘Lakeer’ also gave hope that now the valuable book will be available to Panjabi readers. In the meantime, democratic publishers published this book in Telugu, Bengali, Marathi etc., at reasonable price and it was very much liked by the readers. Sometime ago, I wrote to Gursharan Singh, inquiring if anyone else was not doing the Panjabi translation of this book, I would like to do that. After getting his positive response, I started translating this book and at completing this translation, my five years old dream was fulfilled and a moral duty was also fulfilled, though this duty had been fulfilled so late that a sense of guilt is also being felt.

Some readers might wonder at the mention of moral duty. In my view, for every person committed to and having sympathies with democratic movements, this book is a valuable document. I myself have been attached to democratic movement in some form or the other and being attached to democratic movements, I had felt a moral duty to translate this book into Panjabi. I am not saying this out of sentimentalism – In my view till today, no Indian has wrote such a deeply touching book about Indian jails and about those Indians living in those jails (Hell). There can be different viewpoints about the literary form of the book and many snobbish University trade mark critics may even refuse to consider it as a piece of literature, but I am for recognising this book as a masterpiece literature. The broad difference made between journalism and literature is that journalism generates a sensation and this sensation withers away without having a deep effect, whereas literature touches the emotions, the consciousness of readers deeply. After reading every masterpiece of literature carefully, reader’s consciousness does not remain the same, it has qualitatively grown. In great literature, apart from artistic qualities, the most important quality is that it makes the readers more humane, more sensitive. And to make reader more humane and more sensitive, the kind of capacity Mary Tylor’s this documentary has, such capacity is found in very rare books. Ultimately history judges the creative writings and the real assessment of the strength of writing is known much later after its publication. I am fully sure that this book of Mary Tylor, will prove its worth on this historic touchstone.

Mary Tylor has not claimed herself as author or a writer or a political activist, or a historian or a journalist. She has just narrated without exaggerating, whatever she saw in life and suffered herself. But she has such sensitive heart that in her writing, all the above mentioned qualities have appeared naturally. Even without being a writer, the real characters, depicted by the touch of her pen – Kalpana, Bina, Dhatingna, Leoni, Somri, Rajkumari, Moti, Gulabi, Budhi etc., all these characters, shake our consciousness. How many Indians are there, who would love, give so much sympathy to these oppressed people of India, as much this foreigner (?) has given ? Mary Tylor has taken out the humanity out of the narrow circle of nationalities and given it a international form in the real sense. All the oppressed and working people of the world are friends to each other and all the oppressive governments of the world are enemies of these human beings. Many Tylor, without complaining, without any crime or fault, gave the five best years of her youth for the love of Indian working people. Undoubtedly these working women gave Mary best of their love, shared her difficulties, troubles at every possible level in their loving heart.

At the time of publishing this book in Panjabi, we assure Mary Tylor again, that Indian working people and Indian democratic movement will never forget her love and attachment with Indian people and Indian people will always remember her with same regard and affection, with which John Reed is remembered in Russia or Edgar Snow, Norman Bethune and

Dr. Kotnis are remembered in China.

Chaman Lal

5th February, 1984

The book was released in Dec., 1984.



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