From a story by Uon Chin, Radio Free Asia, accessed on August 9, of a union rally in Phnom Penh, from July 25, of an estimate 5-7 thousand unionists. A very sad song by female garment workers, titled “Terrible Karma.” I typed out the song lyrics, and have included a first attempt at a translation (I am a bit intimidated by poetic translation, and found some of the lines difficult; suggestions for correction would be lovely, in the comments), below, after the break….
[update August 27, 2010: conversations with Chanroeun Pa, of Cambodian Translation Link and Trent Walker of the Ho Center of Buddhist Studies at Stanford University have helped me amend some of the lines; thanks, Chanroeun and Trent! The good things below are owed to the composers of the song, the bad things that remain are my fault.]
ឃ្លាតឆ្ងាយស្រុក ក្នុងទ្រូងកើតទុក្ខ ឥតល្ហែ
ឱ! មែ៉អើយម៉ែ គ្មានស្គាល់យប់ថ្ងៃ
ថ្លៃផ្ទះទឹក ភ្លើង ចំណី
Song “Terrible Karma”
translation by Erik W. Davis
Distant from the village, the ache in our chests works without a break.
Mother, I miss you; I miss the rice fields after harvest.
We remember all the words of advice, our honored mothers sent with us:
“Don’t be lured by the colored lights of immorality; this will let them call you ‘bad women.'”
Garment Working Women! Don’t you know what type of suffering this is?
It’s Cash Money causes family poverty,
When your children are sick, and mom is too far to comfort and hold.
Thunder and rain and homesickness:
This horrible, terrible, jealous karma
Overtime with no time for rest, and
Ordered around by gangs of bosses
O! Ma! Ma! I can’t tell night from day,
and after we divide it for bills, there’s nothing left of one month’s salary:
the price of rent, water, electricity, and food -
what could be left, to send home to the village?
Anxious tears, and all alone, with
no one to help solve our problems.
Flooded with anguish and suffering,
Dizzy and fruitless, hoping one day for health;
Spinning, until the day we return to our beloved mothers.
[Please that this translation is in no way an attempt at a literal translation. So for instance, in the second to last line, I say "feeling dizzy and fruitless" to parse "អារម្មណ៏វិលវល់" in order to take advantage, for the English-only eye, the resonance of the word វិល in the compound វិលវល់, which seems to me especially important, given the role of mass dizzy spells in Cambodian garment factories.]