Translators for national leaders have come under criticism in Tamil Nadu recently, but things aren’t getting any better
In a land where Tamil pride is not just political but an emotional issue, it has always been difficult for non-Tamil speaking leaders to connect with the masses in the state.
The role of good translators becomes crucial and historically there have been both Congress and BJP leaders from outside the state who have placed their bets on some senior local leaders who are impeccably multi-lingual.
But of late things are changing.
Translators of national parties have come in for criticism and in some cases video clips of translations gone horrendously wrong have gone viral. A month ago, it was Congress leader Thangabalu who had viewers in splits over his terrible translation of Rahul Gandhi’s address.
On Friday, at Krishnagiri, it was the turn of Professor G Palanithurai of Gandhigram Rural Institute, who had been entrusted with the job of translator for Rahul Gandhi at a public rally. He is now the latest posterboy of translation malfunctions.
Symptoms of what was to come became evident as the Congress president, right at the start of his address in English asked the professor to be placed right next to him at the podium so that it might make the job easier for the translator.
At the beginning of the speech the professor stood a couple of metres away from Gandhi, but soon inched closer with his hand soon resting on the podium meant for the Congress leader.
Evidently, there were some issues with the sound system as the Professor kept looking at Gandhi closely as if he was reading the lip movements of the leader, but even such close observation did not prove fruitful.
The professor was missing by a mile.
The near-breakdown of translation began very early into the speech when Gandhi mentioned Gabbar Singh Tax, in his usual style of taking on the Goods and Services Tax implemented by the BJP-led government.
Gandhi spoke about Gabbar Singh Tax affecting various sectors, listing them out one by one, but the professor looked as if he did not understand why the Congress president was distorting the full form of GST.
The professor initially tried to transliterate Gabbar Singh but soon gave up and just called it in short – GST. “Gabba… gabba… err… GST,” he finished.
Here are some other deviations from Rahul Gandhi’s address at Krishnagiri on Friday.
RG: Cyclone Gaja destroyed…
(Silence from translator who is just nodding)
RG: (Holds his hand and says again) “Cyclone Gaja destroyed the food basin of Tamil Nadu…”
Translator: “Gaja cyclone has destroyed Tamil Nadu.”
RG: (Repeats) “The Cauvery basin…”
Translator: “Cauvery region has been hit.”
RG: “40 lakh farmers lost their work.”
Translator: “30 lakh farmers have lost jobs.”
RG: “Mr Narendra Modi took away the bonus that our farmers used to be given.”
Translator: “This is what Narendra Modi has given as a bonus to Tamil Nadu…taking away 6000 crore rupees.”
RG: “You will remember that a few years ago whenever a national budget was presented a separate Railway budget was presented.”
Translator: “Before this there was no separate budget for this… Either for railways or for agriculture…there is a situation like that now.”
RG: “So to show our support to the farmers…”
Translator: “Similarly…several schemes for agriculture they
RG: “How much the MSP is going to be raised…”
Translator: “How much money we are going to give you…”
RG: “35,000 crore to Mehul Choksey…”
Translator: “They have given 31,000 crore to Nirav Choudhary.”
RG: “I would like to conclude by saying that our alliance is an alliance of the people of Tamil Nadu.”
Translator: “We, this alliance, if we have to say who we are dependent on, if we have to say who gives us the courage…this alliance is your (people’s) alliance, this is an alliance formed by you (the people) in Tamil Nadu.”
RG: “Tamil Nadu is going to be ruled from Tamil Nadu.”
Translator: “Tamil Nadu should be ruled by Tamilians.”
Luckily for the audience, alliance partner Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) quickly got former MP TKS Elangovan to translate Gandhi’s speech in Salem, his next stop, thereby ensuring that the message from Congress president was actually conveyed to the crowds wilting under the hot summer sun.