Amita Bhose

Amita Bhose

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"I started dreaming in Romanian"

Romanian Today, Bucharest, p.45, june 1986

"I started dreaming in Romanian", says dr. Amita Bhose

-Really? I asked her in naturall surprise.
- "Yes, quite so. I have come to dream in Romanian although my mother tongue is Ben¬gali. Naturally, I love my mother tongue as I love my own soul. I had even wanted to take my doctor's degree in this idiom."

-And still
-''And still I took my doctor's degree in the Romanian language, producting an ample and detailed research work on your national poet Mihai Eminescu, Eminescu and India issued in 1978 by the Junimea Publishing House of Iaşi, in the prestigious Eminesciana collection."

-No matter how I might look upon things, it is quite sensational. How is it that an Indian like you managed not only to master Romanian to perfection, but also to attach herself to Romanian culture so failthfully, without complexes? It is quite clear that we belong to two remote areas not only geographically, but also linguistically, different, not to mention cultural differences. We differ fundamentally. Therefore, how is it that an Indian came to get involved in Romanian culture so orgonically?

- ''Romania has never been alien to me.''

- But you were not born here, you have not learnt the language at home and nobody has com¬pelled you to comment on and translate so many Romanian authors in your native country.

- "As we well know, man's destiny cannot be foreseen. I repeat what I have already said : I am an Indian in love with my mother tongue and Indian culture, But if in 1959, that is a quarter of a century ago, I happened to get acquainted with your country and devote myself to some comparatist research into Romanian and Indian spirituality, that was one of the capital and revealing events of my life.''

-Any bad feelings about having attached yourself to a culture different from your own, in whose language you write with much intuition and talent?

- "I wanted to take my doctor's degree in Bengali and took it in Romanian. Why? I could have taken it in English too, a language I can speak very well. But I chose the Romanian language because I discovered a world. And not only for me, but for my feelow-countrymen too. From this point of view I am the first Indian who has popularized the values of Romanian spirituality in the area of Greater India. And I did it without resorting to an intermediary."

-As far as I know, you translate directly from Romanian. Moreover, you write directly in Mihai Eminescu's language, an author to whom you devoted many years of study and comments.

-"I was telling you that I had come not only to think and, therefore, to write in Romanian, but also to dream. It may seem paradoxical, but it is real. To be able to finish a Bengali ¬Romanion Dictionary, like that published last year and sponsored by the University of Bucha¬rest, where I am an assistant professor at the Department of Oriental Languages, to study the Romanian-Indian cultural relations, in the light of Eminescu's towering spirit, one must know the Romanian language and literature very well. I have participated in many conferences of translators from Romanian and I can say I am one of the few who can write and think directly in Romanian, who translate without the help of a dictionary."

-Reading your record, I noticed you translated a number of Romanian authors who thus entered for the first time the area of a millennia-old culture.

-"I shall not speak of Mihai Eminescu any more now for, as I have written in my thesis for a doctor's degree, he "is the only European poet who made India immortal in his country". I shall mention only Ion Luca Caragiale (Lost Letter and A Stormy Night), Mihail Sebastian (Playing at Holidays and The Nameless Star, both of them staged in Calcutta), Mihail Sadoveanu (The Mud Hut Dwellery, Zaharia Stancu (Barefoot), Alexandru Phliippide, Demostene Botez, Gellu Naum, Mihu Dragomir, Romulus Vulpescu, Marin Sorescu and others, included in an antho¬logy of Romanian lyrical poetry. I have also published books on Romania's history, geo¬graphy and culture."

- And you have written a number of books about India meant for Romanian readers.

-"I have always tried to act as a factor of culture. I could not but try to disseminate Indian spiritual values in the country I consider my second homeland, Romania. This is how Tagore's poems, Bengali Proverbs and Thoughts, The Prince's Tale (a collection of Bengali folk tales) the above-mentioned dictionary and others weew published."

- It's naturally capital to know a culture in its country of origin.
-"I had this opportunity and this is why I came to know the Romanian cultural patri¬mony. I have learnt Romanian here, studying in libraries and talking to people of the most various professions, from writers to the pea¬sants in the agricultural cooperatives where I was often invited. Maybe it is not useless to remind readers that I made my literary début in the Romanian language with a study on Tagore in Romania written in 1961. I won't speak about me any more. I should only make it clear that I am proud of having offered food for wider discussions in India about Romanian culture."

-''Due" to Eminescu again?
- "Probably. It is owing to him that I estab¬lished a definite sentimental relation with a country, with a people, with a culture. Emi¬nescu made me expand my research into the Romanian cultural area."

-And what does Romania look like to you now?
- "By no means a foreign country. Do you want me to tell you something? Romanians are akin to Bengalis as regards affective struc¬ture, characterologic features, artistic options. This is why I never felt I was a foreigner in your country. Otherwise how could I have stayed among you for a quarter of a century, not as a mere neighbour? How would you account for my interest taken in Eminescu and your spirituality if it had not been for the extraordinary relations between two old and valuable cultures?"

-Quite true, you have clearly said it several times. And we are mighty grateful to you as it is really revealing that an Indian, a highly cultivated person, found out - by working directly in Romanian - "how deeply India penetrated into the Romanian people's soul." Wasn't it you that quoted philosopher and poet Lucian Blaga's memorable words that "by complete assimilation, the motifs of Indic provenence became part of our very being, from where they can no longer be taken out unless vital tissues are destroyed"? And wasn't it you that, in so many studies and books, explained to us why "Eminescu was attracted to India", what it meant to him to know the Vedas and Kalidasa, Buddhism, to say nothing of his affinity with Tagore's work? A great, maybe the greatest, Romanian literary critic and historian, George Călinescu, said thet "all great races are characterized by a profound action of eternity and by making earthly life depend on the absolute". You revealed to us that "the Indian soul was not and could not be transplanted to the West. Only the poet of Mioriţa's country, Mihai Eminescu, integrated it into his people's spirituality." Were it for this statement alone - but it is based on thorough research and knowledge of reality - and we had to be grateful to you. It is people like you that make possible the complex dialogue of cultures.

-"I have told you that the Romanian creative demarche made me not only learn Romanian in its country of origin, study Romanian litera¬ture, write in Romanian, translate from the Romanian, but I have even come to dream in Romanian. Do you think I am exaggerating if I tell you that in my dreams my grandparents speak Romanian?''

Vladimir Udrescu

 Amita Bhose

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