Posted on 4/6/2019
How do you translate something which is not easy to translate. Things can get really complicated sometimes… because there are things that are not easy to write in any language in the first place. For example, How can we write our feelings? There is no way we can write what we feel, and there is no way to validate that any of our feelings are universal. If I feel in a certain way about love or watching the sunset, I can never be sure if you also feel it the same way. I can only try to write feelings in a limited sense, using metaphors, and you can understand and agree to filtered things only in a further eroded way, but we can never know If it is exactly the same way as I feel!
When I see and read things translated from Sanskrit or old Indian Pali texts, sometimes I find it unbelievably different from what I have known all my life. I do not claim to be an expert in these languages. I can hardly understand myself. However, I know the meaning of most terms because I listened to the interpretations by elders as I was growing up. I believe in those interpretations transferred from generation to generation and very much alive in contemporary culture must be a better interpretation. For example, The meaning of famous concepts - Karma, Nirvana etc. No one in India can translate Karma to mean a b*tch, and Nirvana is not bliss. Why not? An Example - THE Kurt Cobain, of famous Nirvana band, in search of Nirvana 'the bliss' became a heroin addict. Sadly, He later committed suicide! I cannot even imagine Nirvana and a heroin addict together in the same frame!
It is very tough to translate and understand cultures from translation. But People try, which is beautiful and magnificent (except when it ends up in a sad situation)!
(meanwhile, you must be thinking...) Okay, fine! But what it has to do with Chai?
When I started writing, I had a straightforward example in my mind. I have a favorite tea shop in the city, which is in an iconic building, a beautiful-well-designed interior, and is next to my office. It also sometimes has paintings and photographs from local artists and has a board where people from across the world leave feedback. It is a beautiful shop with a very innovative and fantastic collection of tea from around the globe, and their signature collection is very creative. I have tried almost all their teas, but over the years, I have converged to only one - green tea with ginger twist (and golden tea whenever I get flu, which is nothing but haldi-doodh). They generally keep one drink for free tasting, and On Friday, I saw they had a new exclusive tea launch and free on display - named - Chai.
The description and graphics were beautiful - Assam black tea, spicy and sweet blend of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and creamy milk. I like beautiful things (everyone does), the shop is my favorite, and their design team had done an excellent job with this new launch! The description was exactly how I would like my Chai to be.
It seemed like someone asked an Indian - what is the best version of Indian tea, and what is it called?
And then the chef tried to translate that response… and here it was.. a cold unboiled mixture of brewed tea with the varied proportion of things that don't fit well! It was precisely the way - Nirvana translated into… you know the story by now!
The salesperson looked at me and asked - how is it?
I smiled, said - perfect! And moved on the counter and ordered my good old hot green tea with a ginger twist. 😀