When I started Songs of Yore about three years ago, I did not have a clue what blogging meant. My only excuse was a notion I had about myself that I knew a good deal about old film music. As SoY has progressed, I have learnt a great deal more, and I realise how mistaken I was about myself and how little I knew. I have learnt from fellow bloggers and I have learnt from readers from their comments, and I have often been awed by them, and envious of them. At times I have also used material from them, acknowledging and praising them openly. Similarly, fellow bloggers, who are extremely accomplished, have often referred to something which I wrote, praising me generously and, at times, excessively. We have done it not only because it is legally and morally correct thing to do, but also because it comes so naturally.
This was the virtual word I had stepped into, which was also virtuous and which also matched with my own personal world of seeing goodness in everyone. And in this world, Anu (Anuradha Warrier) recently brought to my notice an instance of two Harvard students, lifting parts of my translation of Chalo ek baar phir se ajanabi ban jayen hum dono on their blog they have started about old Hindi films and songs. They are 20-something, apparently from Indian background as it appears from Bollywood style pair-photos in ‘About Us’ on their blog.
In fact, if you compare, there is some more than what Anu pointed out. My past infamy has become my companion has been made into My past disgraces have become my companion.
We discussed it a great deal. I also discussed it with a few more people. Even after taking the most charitable view and giving the benefit of the doubt, the conclusion was that the similarities are too glaring to be a coincidence.
Then I posted this comment on their blog, giving them a lot of room to extricate themselves honourably.
My attention has been drawn to this post about similarities in your translation with mine which appeared in my blog on December 20, 2010 here:
I quote my translation here with portions being similar highlighted.
O my love! Let us be strangers once again
Let me not have any hopes of tenderness from you
Nor should you look towards me with longing eyes
Let not my words betray my trembling heart
Nor your eyes show the torment inside you
Come, let us be strangers once again
There is something that keeps you from taking the next step
As for me, they say these delights are not mine
My past infamy has become my companion
You too are burdened by the shadows of the nights gone by
Come, let us be strangers once again
When familiarity becomes an affliction it is better to forget it
When relationship becomes a burden it is better to break it
The story which can not be brought to a happy ending
It is better to give it a beautiful turn and leave it
Come, let us be strangers once again
The person who first brought it to my notice is a well respected blogger herself, and a writer and editor in her own right. I discussed the matter a great deal with her and some other readers and bloggers, who are all experienced people, before I decided to comment here. Even after taking the most generous view and giving the benefit of the doubt, everyone agrees that the similarities are too close to be a coincidence. It is possible you have inadvertently missed to acknowledge my translation. It is indeed a matter of happiness that two Harvard youngsters have undertaken this project on our valuable heritage. As an elder I would like to encourage you, and be of any help. It is fair that you post my comments, and make appropriate reference to my translation.
What would you expect two Harvard students to do on receiving this mail? If they were courageous they would have posted my comment with appropriate apology for failure to acknowledge earlier. If they found it too embarrassing, they would have removed that post and written me a private email of regret. The matter would have closed at that.
They were not even up to that. What do you think they did?
Mr and Mrs 55 (they might as well have described themselves as Bunty Aur Babli) ‘cleaned’ their translation and pretended as if nothing had happened.
But in the cyberworld your footprints do not get erased. Here is a picture of their offending post dated Jaunary 9, 2012 as it existed until a few days before their ‘cleaning up’.
And here is how the same page of their post looks after the cleaning operation, and this is how they would like the world to believe that the page always existed.
You will notice that besides changing the offending words, they have also changed the layout. Now their translation, instead of appearing separately in a paragraph, has been interspersed with the original lyric, one original line followed by its translation.
Seeing this, I didn’t know what to make of it. This was my first reaction which I wrote to Anu, and which I repeat here:
It still leaves a lot of troubling thoughts. We all commit mistakes, and learn from them. When these kids were caught, I thought Harvard would have instilled in them some sense of morality to own up and apologize, if not publicly, at least privately to me. One would have felt good that they have a genuine sense of remorse. Now I am not sure if they would grow up to be honourable people.
I am more sad than angry at this kind of stupidity by two ’Twenty-something Harvard students’. Let me try to salvage something and give another chance to these kids to redeem themselves, by addressing the final part of my post to them.
To Mr and Mrs 55
1. We all commit mistakes, at all ages, and more so when we are twenty-something, because we are immature and unaware of many things. There is no shame in being told of a mistake, but the shame lies in trying to cover-up.
2. In life you would often get a chance to own up and rectify yourself. The earlier you do it, the better off you are. I gave you a very wide window the first time, but instead of doing the honourable thing you chose to ‘cover up’. At times this may prove very costly.
3. You ought to own up and say sorry not because the law says so, or the society’s moral code says so, but because you have to be true to yourself. You have ‘cleaned up’ your blog, pretending to the world that nothing has happened. But has it cleaned up your conscience, or can you pretend to yourself that nothing has happened? What about people who had commented on the old translation, who might have taken a copy, or who might recall that it is not the same? Are you honest to them?
4. And all this mess for what – a translation of Sahir Ludhiyanvi’s song? If you liked my translation so much, did it require too much of you to simply ask me, or after being pointed out, to simply acknowledge? What have you achieved by the ‘cover-up’? You went into great contortions to replace words, which may not convey the same meaning, and changed the sentence structure. In the process you have completely mangled Sahir Ludhyanvi. Now if you read your ‘translation’, it is clumsy English not worthy of Harvard 20-somethings.
5. On your blog, you have given this Commandment:
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Do you realise that if you do not follow this noble principle yourself, it would make you look like hypocrites?
6. You have displayed your affiliation with Harvard, one of the greatest Institutions in the world. Do you realise that among the people who would be reading this, it is possible that many, including myself, might have affiliation with Harvard and Yale and Princeton and Oxford and other great Institutions in much senior capacity? Character and ethics is most important for these Institutions. Please remember that it is not only a matter of your personal honour, but also that of Harvard.
7. I can see that this is going to make you feel miserable and, trust me, I can put myself in your position and I feel bad about the whole thing. But there might be a lesson in this also. You would be facing far more difficult moral dilemmas as you grow older. You are learning a lesson very early in your life, albeit not in the way I had wished for you. Now you have to call upon your inner reserves and discuss with your trusted friends, family and seniors how best to redeem yourself from this situation. As for myself, and I can probably say for many at Songs of Yore, I only wish that you give us hope that you are as handsome within as you look in your photographs, that what you did was out of ignorance as you did not know how to go about it, and that you have learnt from it and you have it within yourselves to grow up into honourable persons.
(Note: I apologise to SoY’s readers for inflicting this upon them.)