Tuesday, 30 November, 2021

The Art of Writing

Original: Rachanar Shilpagoon by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay

  • Translated by Abdullah-Al-Musayeb
  • 28 October, 2021 12:00 AM
  • Print news

The objective of your essay will be in vain if you are unable to explain what you need to say in it. Yes, there are no hard and fast rules regarding how to employ "diction," but there are some hints and instructions for doing so surreptitiously.

Use the words, even if they are foreign, that suit best and serve the purpose of your communication properly. If someone says something to you like- the words you used are not perfect for expression and vernacular in nature, do not pay any heed to such objections. The writers, once, were so obsessed with the tradition of Sanskrit language that they did not think of using any other word than Sanskrit. At present, the new writers are changing things as they are employing such words that express the best feelings of their minds.

The words Istehar (manifesto) and Biggapon (advertisement) can be drawn as a perfect paradigm to discuss for better understanding. Suppose you are writing an Istehar drafted by the court (Istehar refers to court orders circulated for public concern; "biggapon" is another name). Many people prefer to use "Biggapon" instead of "Istehar" since "Biggapon" is a Sanskrit word, whereas "Istehar" is foreign. However, the term "Biggapon" is a little perplexing and difficult to understand as it has a layer of meanings. For example, the title of the very introduction written by an author for his book is called Biggapon; the title of the news that is written by a grocer in a newspaper or elsewhere to market his goods is also called Biggapon. Besides, Biggapon is the name of the proceedings of a meeting written by an official. As 'Biggapon' creates much confusion, I, instead of the word Biggapon, will use the word 'Istehar'. Then, everyone will understand the meaning. No problem with the meaning at all.

If I can't come up with any words to clearly communicate my views, I will use what is good among them by defining the meaning using the terminology. Consider the word 'race,' which has a variety of interpretations. Firstly, it refers to the Hindu caste system, which includes Brahmins, Kayasthas, Kaivartas, etc. Secondly, "race" refers to people of many nationalities, such as British, French, or Chinese. Thirdly, 'race' means human race such as Aryan, Semitic, Tarani etc. Fourthly, 'race' refers to a country's unique ethnic population, as in - 'there were ten races of Judah'. Finally, the term "race" might refer to distinct species of birds or canines. There is no word in Bengali that expresses any connotation other than 'race.' The word 'race' must be used instead. However, the terminology of this word should be employed to explain in what sense the word 'race' has been used for. It's preferable if you include an example with your explanation.

Another excellent writing trait is Lucidity. People should be able to understand what you write shortly after reading it. The objective of your writing is pointless if they don't grasp what you're trying to say, yet most writers don't care. Following a few guidelines and tactics can help you write in a very clear and lucid manner. Next, I'll discuss two alternative approaches:

An object can have many names, such as 'Agun' (fire) has been compressed into Bengali as 'Agni', 'Hutashan' or 'Hutbhuk', 'Anal', 'Vaiswanar', 'Vayusakha' etc. Which of these names would be appropriate to use while writing about 'Agun' (fire)? Among them, everyone recognises the word "Agni," meaning fire. If I say that the steam engine is operated with the help of 'Hotbhuk', most of the Bengalis will not understand me then. If I say, on the other hand, that a steam engine is powered by 'Agni' (fire), everyone will understand.

Don't try to blend some worthless and irrelevant Sanskrit terms that might cause great trouble figuring out what they signify. If I say, for instance, 'MeenakshovakulKublaya' in Sanskrit, can anyone understand easily? The response is a resounding 'no.' Instead, who will not comprehend if I say, "MacherTarone je Padma Kapiteche" (the lotus trembles in with the chase of fish)?

Don't exaggerate talking nonsense. What is the benefit of talking more when a couple of words suffice your purpose? "After overcoming all the difficulties, when the Sun God appeared above the eastern horizon, shining his rays on the earth, I departed that place" If I say instead, "being scared of so many things when the sun rose, I left that place", the meaning remains the same, and everyone can understand it without difficulty.

Try to avoid writing in complex sentences with a lot of sentences jumbled together. This will make your sentence more confusing and complicated. Break the complex sentence, where the sentence will be complex, into bits and pieces to make it simple. See the following example-

We are disheartened to see that most altruists do not think of people's plight in the countryside even after anticipating that the villages will be waterless in a few days and that there will be severe disruption in agriculture.

Although six sentences have been used instead of one, grasping the meaning is not difficult here. Where the jargon is difficult to understand, it becomes clear with the use of examples. So there is no need to give examples anymore. Expand the sentence in such a case if the coarse sentence is extremely short and often difficult to comprehend. The word "Horse" could be a good example to discuss this-

A Horse is a hornless herbivorous animal.

This does not express everything. In the extended sentences, what was unclear has been addressed. Let's see another example:

If the intensity of the year's gross rainfall is lower than usual, people may say in such case, "Uno boroshaydunoshet" which means "when there is less downpour, the winter of the year becomes more intense then". And think that you do not know what the proverb means. If someone, in such a case, tells you in the month of Bhadra (Autumn season in English) that the cold will be exceptionally intense this winter, you will not understand the significance of his words. On the contrary, you might think of him as insane. If he adds to his phrase and says, "The year with the least amount of downpour will be the year of intense winter. Since there has been less rainfall, this year will be colder than usual." There will be no confusion ambiguity in understanding the meaning.


About the Author: The essay is originally written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (1838-1894), a Bengali novelist, poet and essayist. Bankim is the pioneer in the Bangla literary renaissance and celebrated for his widely acclaimed novel Durgeshnandini (1865), the first-ever novel in the Bangla language. Moreover, Kapalkundala (1866), Mrinalini (1869), Vishbriksha (1873), Indira (1873), Anandamath (1882), Sitaram (1887), Lalita O Manas (1858) are his notable works.

Abdullah-Al-Musayeb is an academic, researcher and translator. He is currently teaching English at an Army administered university in Bangladesh