Friday, February 29, 2008

Of Quotes, Misquotes and Lessons in Humility

Our very erratic and temperamental internet connection in the office was miraculously working at top speed today, so a few minutes before I left, I started browsing around. I wanted pictures of certain authors and poets whose works I will be teaching this semester. After I got what I wanted, for want of anything better to do, I typed my name just for a lark, wondering if any of my pictures were there on google image search. They were not. But Google, helpful as ever, gave me some links which contained my name, and I clicked on these. Imagine my surprise when I was given quite a few entries beside the usual blog addresses and NET list, and I hadn't even known about these. My curiosity aroused, my ego sufficiently stroked, I happily followed these links. First, an article by a lady journalist whom I had met recently. Quickly skimming down, I came to the part which had my name:

There are also 100 other “mother tongues” spoken by 10,000 or more people, according to census data, and tens of thousands of dialects. “Because people don’t think their works are going to be read, they’re skipping writing in their own language and writing in English,” said Cherrie Channgte, literature lecturer at Mizoram University in India’s northeast. “Unless their work has a chance of translation into English, writing in local languages will start withering,” Channgte said.

“It’s already happening,” added Channgte, whose mother tongue is Mizo but who is equally fluent in English. “Mizo literature will vanish one day.” There is also a big need for Indian works to be translated into regional languages to promote interaction and understanding in the hugely culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse country, experts said.

oinks! I didn't recall ever predicting that Mizo literature would vanish, although we had some very lively discussions about the need for translation, and how linguistic minorities are getting more and more sidelined, how there was a danger that literary production would simply peter out one day if something was not urgently done to stop this trend. And it was not an interview. And my last name is spelled wrong. Of course, the writer is a sweet lady called Penny MacRae, and this came out in The Pakistan Daily, of all things.

I opened with trepidation the next two links. They were both already two days old, and both screamed:

Mizo literature will vanish one day, predicts Mizoram University Lecturer

Yeow! I hastily wrote to both sites, and clarified my stand. The editor of, one of the sites, was really sweet about it, and we resolved whatever needed to be resolved very amicably (I think). the other was on, and thankfully it had gone pretty much ignored since nobody deigned to comment upon it. I refrain from giving you links to these sites because I'm too mortified right now, and don't want you to go hunting them up.

Whew! This was a bit too much attention for mousy old me, a person who'd rather hide and write than bask in the spotlight. And the embarrassing part was that the attention wasn't all that positive! Ouch!

Wait, I'm not done. By now, heart-heavy with a feeling of dread but unable to help myself, I opened the link to a blog ( where one of my translations, a story by a well-known writer had been posted by a friend. I hadn't really dared to do that, fearing the feedback of its esteemed readers. I looked. There were only two comments.
One of them said "it felt to me as if something has been lost in translation". Ouch! Ouch!

o, to cut a long, depressing story short, I learnt that:
(a) I need to be careful about what I say, because I could be quoted.
(b) I also need to be careful because the same thing could be taken out of context, making me look really silly and giving the impression that I'm shooting off my mouth without really thinking things through.
(c) not everybody likes what I write, and I should just accept that.

And, because mom always ended her stories with a moral when we were younger,
(d) I should learn to accept criticism and being dismissed (worse!) as being too insignificant for any reaction, and that I should simply learn to be grateful for who I am, regardless of what others think.



  1. You've done the right thing by clarifying what was quoted out of context. I hope others will learn from such an incident.

    I'm glad you did clarify, it was still timely!

  2. ah!! this is one reason why I hate Aizawl..the sloth-speed net.

    when i typed my name in google image search, i see two pics of myself and when i hit the keyword "father_sphinx".. more pics appeared. Last year one girl added me on Yahoo msger and I asked her "Do I know you?". She said.. "no., you won't", "then how did you know my ID?", "Oh, i search for Mami Varte's pictures at google and i saw your photo. I click on it, and it redirects me to your blog in which i saw your ID"... hah!! damn!!

    Mi kan inhriat dan te hi a mak thei ania. nang chu i thlalak te hmu treuh lo mah la, i hmuh chhun te hi an hlu bik hle mai. Tin, i inzirchhuak thra hle mai bawk.

    Ciao.. :D

  3. There is nothing negative in claiming that Mizo literature will vanish one day. In fact, I admire you for such concern. I can feel the pain you feel for such a misquotation, but hey, you'll get used to it. I have been misquoted a zillion times, lolz.

    I am working on my latest post right now, on a similar topic. I am quoting you there, but hey, don't worry, I am saying it as it is and its not going to be negative about you. Cheers.

    About the translation at Letmetellyou... do know that when we translate anything from Mizo to English, something is ALWAYS lost in translation. You cannot have the same effect you have when you translate a particular Mizo sentence into English, be it a joke, a one-liner, or a story. You of all the people should know better than that, my dear :-)

    So cheer up and don't let such criticism put you down. In fact, from my point of view, I do not consider that comment by ChaoticSerenity (a very nice guy from Japan, known him since days way back in 2003) to be a criticism at all. Please do keep translating other great literature pieces, and remember that we love you all (I mean you, J, and all the others who take such an effort to translate such works).

    Keep blogging.

  4. I am always curious about my search results using different search engines...lolzz. When I did an image search in Google, it brings out several images from different blogs that I have visited, lolzzz. No image result in Yahoo! wonder which one is more honest..hahaha

    As for the posts at, I wouldn't call that as a criticism, its just quoting out what you have said. And yes, you might be right, everyone has the right to give out their opinion, right?

    Anyway, don't you think how boring life would be without any criticism? :) cheer up

  5. Hey L, look at it this way. When you quote and are misquoted in public, you know you've hit the big time and are famous! :P Seriously, I think most things we say usually boil down to interpretation. So often things I say are interpreted entirely in some other way. Shows how diverse our mindsets and preoccupations are, I guess.

    About your translation, since John hasn't actually read the original I wouldn't take his remarks too much to heart. And to be honest the original is a bit rambunctious and disorderly so it's hardly your fault. And I still think your prose is just beautiful.

  6. @ beita jr. Yeah, not that it was anything earth-shattering, but it did matter to me, so I had to clarify myself. Ty for the visit!

    @Joseph, at least you got pictures of yourself! I didn't but the closest that came up was a picture of Illusionaire, of all things! A hmeltha deuh hi chu an ron lang leh hlawl thin! Well, life hands out these little lessons once in a Morissette put it, "you live, you learn", right?

    @illusionaire, thanks, man! Hugs to you. Yeah, I am concerned that our literature may have a very big chance of disappearing sometime in the future. How many schoolgoing kids read books written in Mizo out of choice? What I do object to, however, was seeing myself quoted as using such strong terms.

    As for the criticism about the translation, well, I'm sure it was well-meant and that I do need critics to keep me on my toes. Thanks for the encouragement!

  7. @almost unreal...yeah, I'm quite over my initial chagrin at seeing myself (mis)quoted thus. Nobody read it anyway, har har! Yeah, the way these search engines lead you round and round on a wild goose chase sometimes is Almost Unreal!

    @calliopia...I don't think fame agrees with me, hehe! Thanks for the vote of confidence, though. Yeah, I guess I have to keep writing, no matter what, because, at the end of the day, there's really nothing else I'd rather do...

  8. Like Sandman said, I admire the concern you have for Mizo literature, to be frank, I never give the whole thing a thought. And it's so true, I know many people who writes perfectly and endlessly in English but can barely write a decent sentence in Mizo (like the guy who's commented before me, and his usename starts with an S and his name with a K :P)

    And it's not possible to please everyone, but I think you're a terrific terrific writer! I'd give an arm and a leg to be able to write like that.

  9. (oops, his 'blogger' username starts with an I, not S)

  10. This post is cool! Hehe to be honest i did the same searching my name on the web.And what do i get?.. Millions of my photos on the magazine websites...lolzzz just kiddin'. My friend said to me once, "You got everything at google search bar." So when he lost his wallet, we advice him to search in the google search bar.

    Mizo Literature or Literachar as one may call it, i never had a deep though about it. I really admire your work and keep writing and translating. Maybe one fine day not only at the web on the front page of Vanglaini your name might appear.. who knows... Maybe some will know beforehand..lolzzzz. Anyway have a good day..

  11. Such things do happen. Think of the celebs who get it much worse. And btw, i feel your translations are great. Do keep writing, blogging and talking, please.

  12. hey daydreambeliever, i'm so so sorry that my comment has hurt you. i agree the comment sounds very negative and critical but believe you me it was not meant to hurt you at all. to be honest, i dont blame you for feeling hurt because the moment i clicked 'publish your comment' and then read the comment a moment later, i realised that it sounded so unnecessarily harsh and critical when, in fact, it was a really good translation. had i known how to delete that comment it would have been gone the next moment. but there i was, staring at my own comments with regret, and not knowing what to do about it because my IT/computer knowledge is limited to just barely managing to publish my posts on my blog (i still havent even figured out how to upload pictures properly) and checking my email. hope you'll forgive me.
    without trying to justify the comment, let me just say that it was my reaction to the piece on reading it for the first time and, honestly, was an expression of what i felt at that point in time, though it could have been expressed more suitably. i must say that my reaction was quite different when i re-read the piece a few days later and my comments, had i waited, would have been very different.
    So, honestly, it is an extremely good translation and i hope to see your next work soon.
    as illusionaire puts it, remember we love you all - you, J and others out there ensuring that Mizo writing and literature will never disappear.

  13. @Jerusha, really touched by the concern of all my online friends who've made it a point to reassure me of their support. Yeah, my reasoning is, if we don't care about our literature, who will? And so we do the best we can. As you were saying, a lot of us can barely read or write properly in Mizo, let alone find pleasure in it; I admit that I'm not doing too great in that area myself because I missed out on a lot of things during my school and college days. I'm sure a lot of people of our generation are lacking in that area too (including the guy whose nick starts with an "I" , & has another starting with "S" too!! But never fear, I have a feeling he'd win any debate in any language anyway). I enjoy your writings so much too, an am looking forward tothe next update. did your friend findhis wallet at google search? You didn't finish the story, lolz.

    If we're going to build castles, why merely Vanglaini, why not Time Magazine while we're at it? hehe Thanks for your encouragement. Will make sure to mention you when I write my autobiography after I become world-famous, hehehe.

  14. @mesjay,
    thanks for taking the time to write in. I hope I don't sound really needy and desperate for assurance, but I really am grateful to all of you. I've been writing almost as long as I can remember, but I never really had the guts to bring it out for others to read it, so this is a big step for me. It's also a tremendous learning experience, learning to accept and learn from criticism. And all we can do is give it our best, so yes, I will keep on writing :)

  15. @dear chaotic serenity,
    Now I'm embarrassed. And feeling mighty foolish for actually publishing a post about your comment. I really, really have no hard feelings about it, and I'd like to thank you for being honest in saying what you felt about the translation. What writer hasn't benefited from constructive criticism, however hard it may be to swallow at first? And don't worry, it wasn't really that harsh, and I'd take it any day over insincere flattery.

    Thanks for your interest in Mizo literature. Stories and creative writings are such good ways of communicating and bridging gaps between people of diverse backgrounds, so we do the best we can to enrich, expose and preserve our language and literature, and it's people like you who take the time to actually read these attempts that make it all worthwhile. Hoping to see you around again soon.

  16. Ekhai, a ngaihnawm thin hle mai. Aizawl atang pawhin kan lo chhiar hram thin tih ka han report zuai ang e. Kan hotute in fakawm thin e..:)

  17. @xauz, thanks for the visit. Hope to see you around again.

    @puia, Aizawl atanga kan pu te'n min lo chhiarsak thin hi kan thlamuanpui teh ania. Taka, i blog update a hun viau eeee...:)