Were it not for translations, we the reading public would, in a word, be mehroom of many unknown-untold-unimaginable delights. Reading Bilal Tanweer’s almost seamless translation of Muhammad Khalid Akhtar’s novella Love in Chakiwara & Other Misadventures, one is reminded afresh of the role of translators in opening windows into new and exciting worlds, worlds that would regrettably be closed for a great many due to the picket fences of script and literary cultures. Tanweer’s translation brings to life a world that is hard to believe, but actually exists in Urdu. For it contains elements that are far removed from the stereotypes of popular imagination.
Imagine the puckish humour of Mark Twain mingled with the whimsicality of a P.G. Wodehouse. Imagine the cosmopolitanism of a James Hadley Chase meeting the gentle ribbing of Urdu’s best-loved humourist, Mushtaq Yousufi. Imagine, if you will, Jerome K. Jerome living in a lower middle class Karachi neighbourhood and recording all the strange and wonderful happenings in a daily chronicle of three friends and a motley group of neighbours and acquaintances. Or for that matter, imagine the strange and evocative world of Robert Louis Stevenson—an apt comparison as Akhtar has admitted to calling himself a ’disciple’ of the Scottish writer—transposed from its Victorian-era high noon of colonialism and adventurism to a post-colonial Pakistan.