Saturday, August 15, 2020

History of India's Green: Meghaa Gupta

It's never too late to save our environment. Meghaa Gupta is out with another book

 for children- Unearthed- An Environmental History of Independent India. Published

 by Puffin, this nonfiction book takes a look at the fate of our forests since the day

 of our country's independence.


1. Why did you choose to explore environmental history for your book?

In 2013, I was commissioned to compile a guide on courses and careers in the environmental field for students in India. As I went about speaking to a slew of professionals working in this field, I was fascinated. History seemed to be coming at me from all directions. Whether it was MC Mehta who spoke to me about his pioneering work as an environmental lawyer or Mike Pandey, who shared his spellbinding accounts of being a wildlife documentary filmmaker at a time when India didn't even maintain a comprehensive record of its wildlife - I was hooked. I started reading a lot of books on the subject and from a vague idea, environmental history began to take a clear shape in my mind. Of course, it would take many years before I finally felt that I had it in me to write this book. Also, environmental history is a relatively under-explored area, especially in children's publishing, and this only motivated me more.  

2. Was it easy to find sources for research?

We have a continent of rich environmental literature in this country. Mahesh Rangarajan, T Sivaramakrishnan, Madhav Gadgil, Ram Guha, Amitav Ghosh, Zai Whitaker, Arefa Tehsin, Bijal Vachcharajani... I'll get tired of remembering names! So yes, it wasn't very hard to find sources - both online and offline. The other advantage of writing contemporary history is that one can always reach out to people who have actually lived through the time. To be honest, the difficult bit was assimilating all the research into a single book!

3. As deforestation spreads alarmingly, did you come across stories of hope for a greener future? Any model which can be replicated across the country?

Harnessing the power of local communities is an effective model to bring about change, whether it's deforestation or any of the other environmental challenges we face. If they're empowered with the right knowledge and motivation, they can be changemakers. I saw this personally, when a few years back, I travelled to Mawwlynnong village in Meghalaya. It's often called the 'Cleanest Village in Asia' and I was fascinated to see how the villagers have come together to transform this remote village into a hub of sustainable living.

I've also been pleasantly surprised by stories of initiatives like the for-profit SELCO that has persuaded entire villages to adopt solar energy to electrify their homes or for that matter, a large number of waste-management ventures that are cropping up in this country. These examples prove that sustainability can be a business model too!

 However, till environmental conservation becomes a politically-important issue, large scale change would remain unachieved.

4. Do you think children are being briefed enough in schools and home about conservation? What more can be done?

In 2005, EVS became a mandatory subject in India's schools. Whether one believes in the importance of formalising EVS or not, I do think that having it there has, to some extent, exposed more children to the topic of conservation and certainly, today's generation is far more conscious of it than previous generations. Interestingly, the Greta Thunberg phenomenon has shed greater light on young climate activists from India like Ridhima Pandey and Licpriya Kangujam. So, apart from being environmentally-conscious, today's kids also have peers who are actively fighting for the planet.

But, if you ask me, conservation is a mindset that needs to truly penetrate our being, to be effective. It's one thing to talk, write and speak about it, and quite another to consciously follow it. Here's where adults and families come in - as do problems! What happens when a child is taught about conservation in the classroom but sees wastefulness all around? Electricity, water and paper being wasted, people buying unnecessary things, peers coming into class with a new bag every week or throwing lavish birthday parties? Will the message really sink in? Will the child have the strength to overcome the temptations of material abundance and excessive comfort? Even adults often fail at this, so isn't it a bit unnatural to expect it from children? I know there are exceptions, but this is the truth on the ground. Yet, I see hope in children and I know when they're sufficiently inspired, they can overcome great odds. So, I think we need to begin by having truly motivated and empowered EVS teachers who believe in their subject and also educate parents to actively encourage a conservation mindset in the household, so children can have every day role models to inspire them and prod them on their journey towards realising a greener planet.

5. Are you a full-time writer?

I think it's almost impossible to be a full-time writer because writing will never be able to help me pay all my bills! I started out as a journalist, but for the last 10 years I've been working in children's publishing. Seven of those have been with Tulika Publishers. I currently manage Tulika's book rights portfolio. I also write freelance for a few newspapers and magazines and in the middle of all that, I squeeze out time to read and write books! 

6. How long did this book take to write? From pitch to publication?

I've had this idea in my mind since 2014 and have been building on it over the years. The book is on contemporary history, so many of the stories have been added in the course of these years, for example, the water crisis in Chennai. It was only in 2019 that I began writing it and took about a year or so to do this.

7.How connected were you with nature in your childhood?

My mother loves gardening, so we've grown up seeing her get excited about the karelas or the tomatoes or the roses growing in her pots! She hasn't changed and because of her we too have learnt to take pleasure in such happenings! I also remember my parents taking me and my younger brother to parks every other day, when we were children. I grew up in Delhi, so it was usually the neighbourhood park on the weekday evenings and Lodhi Garden, Buddha Jayanti Park or Deer Park on the weekends. I don't think I actively connected with nature in my childhood, but I certainly remember the joy of running barefoot on a field of grass.

8.Which period of Indian history has the maximum deforestation?  Could it have been averted or reduced?

The industrial revolution in the 18th century changed the fate of this planet because it was the start of large-scale deforestation to meet the needs of industrial growth. It began in Britain and as a colony, India wasn't spared the massive fallout. After that it has only increased and I don't think I can accurately guess when it was at its peak because we appear to be breaking new records every year!

Humans have always sought out prosperity and environmental concerns are usually secondary, so I'm not sure to what extent we could have averted or reduced deforestation when it came with the promise of rapid industrialisation and economic progress. But today, we have the technology and the knowledge to actively integrate sustainability into industrial development and we need this more than ever! 

9.The needs of humans have always been a priority than animals. Comment

Self-preservation is a basic instinct in all species. Humans are no different. But our abilities are far superior than all others. Unfortunately, this has meant that we have preserved ourselves at the expense of other species. Whether it is clearing forest areas for development or culling Covid positive animals en-masse, we have always given priority to our needs.  

To buy a copy of Unearthed click here.


Friday, August 14, 2020

Revathi Suresh: In, Now and Then


Author Revathi Suresh is out with her second book for young adults, In Now& Then. A sequel to Jobless,Clueless, Reckless, the book delves into the latest challenges in Kavya's life. Revathi shares more about her latest book.


                                  In Now & Then by [Revathi Suresh]


1.Your second book has arrived after many years. Readers of the first book are no longer teens. Do you think they will connect with Kavya easily?

I should think so…Kavya has grown with them, too—she’s no longer 15/16. I also hope new readers will connect with her. In Now & Then is a standalone novel, about that I’m very clear. The older Kavya’s experiences are very relatable too, but that’s for readers to discover for themselves.

2.  Was your mom as cool as Kavya’s mom when you were a teenager?

My mother was nothing like Kavya’s mother, but she was very cool in her own way.

3.  Your book is the first novel from 1inchmargin publishing house? What was your experience of working with Shyam and Anam?

I had a really great time with the 1inch team. A lot of our work took place via Google Docx and WhatsApp owing to present circumstances, but that didn’t take away from their care and attention to detail. Anam’s sharp eyes averted many an editing/proofing disaster and Shyam with his fantastic knowledge of current children’s writing and critical judgement is also a gee whiz in so many other ways, he’s a great guy to have on your side. As a team they are super responsive, very creative and full of ideas. But most importantly, we have the same thoughts about writing and what makes a good book. For example, I am not a fan of ‘issue’ driven writing—I’d rather take great storytelling over driving home messages through books—and with Shyam and Anam I found we were exactly on the same page.

4.Did the second book idea arrive even as you were working on the first book?

Not really. At least for some time I was pretty sure I had finished telling Kavya’s story. Then many readers started making sequel noises and slowly I began to see the gaps in the first story. Who were those people in Jobless that we saw only through Kavya’s eyes? The mother, the father, the brother, the aunt, the ‘love’ interest, the friends…all of them. I began to get curious about their stories, and that’s what led me to the second book.

5. Was it easy to live with the characters for seven years as you wrote the book? Were they impatient to get their part written asap?

I wrote some very strange drafts before I arrived at the one that made it possible to actually work on. In those versions the characters were weird and distorted and I couldn’t relate with them at all, leave alone think of things for them to say and do. Then, suddenly, one day something opened up and I began to write furiously. When I got three-fourths of the way through, I knew that this time I wouldn’t give up—I’d go all the way. Chapters began to unfurl organically, and I could see the way ahead clearly (though I worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace at which things began to happen). In the time that it took me to get the writing done I lived with the characters in my head all the time, to the point where it maddened me, gave me sleepless nights. Scenes would play out in my head at inconvenient times—like when I was sleeping—and I would wake with a start, try to get the words down on the computer before they disappeared by morning.

6. Do you think it would have been faster if an editor would have given you a deadline to finish the story?

I don’t think that would have worked well for me at all. I work best in fits and starts with no fixed hours. Sometimes I’m at it the whole day, at others I may ignore a manuscript for days on end till I resolve whatever it is that’s got me in a spot. But there were times when I wished for someone to get me out of the jams I got myself into.

7. If you were as old as Kavya and had to choose Vinay or Vendelin as a dinner date, whom would you choose and why?

I can’t imagine myself that young anymore! But if I were to meet Vinay or Vendelin today I’d take them out for chai and a bite to eat, for sure. Post pandemic, of course.


8.Any advice to authors who are writing and rewriting books for over seven years...Some advice which works best for others and not yourself. 

There are those who work steadily though the day and by number of words—that has never worked for me. There are those who have a designated work space that is meant to get them into the right head space—I don’t have that either. I’m nervy and jumpy and keep looking for distractions.

Writing is such a lonely job, and I feel my aloneness keenly when I’m at it. But if you’re struggling, whether for weeks, months or years, I would say hang in there, especially when the going gets tough. Believe in your book and your characters, and if you have to delete entire drafts and start from scratch, do it if you think the story is worth telling. Don’t compare yourself and get yourself down. That last is very important.

 Check out In, Now & Then here.

To familiarise with Kavya's past read Jobless,Clueless, Reckless.









Monday, August 3, 2020

Friends Behind Walls

Author of award wining book, Kittu's Mad Day Out, is out with her next book for kids- Friends Behind Walls. Published by Puffin and richly illustrated by Krishna Bala Shenoi,  Friends Behind Walls is sure to entertain you! Harshikaa shares more about the book:

  1. Your second book has arrived after three years. Are you happy with the way the book has turned out?

I am thrilled with the way Friends Behind Walls has turned out! I had initially visualised it as an illustrated book for younger readers. But Smit Zaveri, my amazing editor, called me one December afternoon and pushed me to think of it as a novella. She woke up this sleepy writer who thought the story was done, and she asked her to explore more. (When you read the book, you will know what I mean.) So that sleepy writer listened to her, and here it is!

  1. How long did you take to write the book?

In the last three years, I have been doing a lot – running a book club, facilitating the library programme at Akshara High – a school very dear to my heart, writing, of course, and being mommy. So I took about 8 or 9 months to write Friends Behind Walls.

  1. Bala Shenoi's  cheerful and beautiful illustrations adorn your book. Did you give him inputs for the sketches?

Krishna is spot on with the illustrations! Besides being so much fun, they are astonishingly close to the mood of Deolali. I felt like he had a camera trained on this cantonment town where my story is set. I can take zilch credit for this though – it’s all Devangana Dash’s doing! She guided Krishna, and the man is blessed with supreme imagination.

Also, speaking of something intangible, I believe a great deal in the passionate spirit that drives a project, in fact every single thing we work on in life. Passion can raise the vibe of a project. An entire team can really be in different places and yet be completely in sync because they share the same vibe.

  1. What came first? The characters or the idea?

The idea, definitely. I was in Deolali when I saw my neighbours’ children going across to each other’s houses through a hole in the wall. No, really, like creeping through. I was very amused. And the thought just came to me about warring neighbours and what the children would resort to, to keep a friendship going. The characters came to me after Smit asked me to expand the idea. I realised I had a rich pool of people right here whom I could write about!

  1. Characterisation has been your strength. Does it come naturally? Do you create elaborate character charts?

Thank you for your kind words, Shyamala. I really do enjoy creating characters. But I don’t have elaborate character charts. I am more of an observer. I like to watch people and I think a lot (sometimes excessively, much to my family’s chagrin – I seem to be in my own world when the most important conversations are on!) When I think of people, I tend to weave a fictional world of events happening around them. It happens all the time; it’s a near obsession.

  1. After creating an award winning book with your first creation, were you stressed while you were writing the second book?

Was I stressed? Actually, during this pandemic and with the lockdown, I have realised the last two years have been super-filled with books and children, so much so that I was barely thinking of anything else. So, ideally I should’ve been quite stressed about Friends Behind Walls but I wasn’t. Thanks to all the work and children surrounding me.

  1. Are your two main characters inspired by kids you know in real life?

In fact, they are the only two characters that aren’t inspired by anyone I know in real life. Though Neel aka Putti definitely has shades of my own son (it’s something that people around authors are used to, I guess!)

  1. Can fans of Kittu expect 100% fun and humour from this book?

Aaaaah! I hope so. Sprinkled with mystery too! 

  1. Is there anything else you want the readers to know?

I would like my readers to enjoy this place called Deolali through Friends Behind Walls, just like I did as a young girl. I loved reading about the place it was set in and if it was a real place, I imagined going there. Maybe my book could inspire them to come here. I have set one more story in Deolali. Read that too if you can – Doolally Tap from the Flipped | Adventure Scary series.

Buy a copy of Friends Behind Walls from Amazon or  Flipkart!

Buy Kittu's Very Mad Day from Amazon or Flipkart or borrow it from Getlitt!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Leela Gour Broome's Earthquake Boy: A story of hope, love and happiness!

Guest Blog -Leela Gour Broome
Published by Talking Cub, an imprint of  Speaking Tiger, Earthquake Boy is author Leela Gour Broome's fourth book for young adults. Here's a guest blog written by the Pune based author.

I have often been asked by readers why and what made me write EARTHQUAKE BOY.


Here’s my take:
When I read about the massive Bhuj earthquake in January, 2001, I found that many children had been buried alive never to be seen by their families again. It broke my heart. How awful for their parents, their child lost forever. Similarly there were children who’d lost their parents. I read about many orphans and knew I had the main ingredients for a great story. 
Why not write a tale about a teenager rescued from under a building, injured and unconscious, rushed to hospital in Ahmedabad for surgery and nursing care? Why not add that he had amnesia-the loss of memory?  With no knowledge of his own background, family, or his past, Binna-my teenage hero could begin a long hunt for his own family, if there were any still alive. 
In the process of his hunt, I could add some of the other ingredients in which I have a long and abiding interest. Here are some of them: 
1.Travel: Especially as it means the sometimes unexpected discovery of silent, tucked-away and hidden places in our old Indian cities!
2.History: The history I read as a teen was completely irrelevant to our Indian tales of war, courage, the reigns of Kings, the entry of marauding hordes from the North or the West; they focused mainly on pre-and post Independence. How much history I’d missed learning about! 
3.Mystery and Suspense: Don’t you love these two elements in a story? My readers can peer into Binna’s mind and discover much of the excitement through his eyes, for what he sees he tells you through the story.
4.The Homeless children of India: We hardly know anything about the secret lives of children who on so many road corners, huddled for warmth under bridges and pavements, living in abandoned concrete pipes, living off other people’s left-over foods, singing for their suppers on many of our trains. They have secret lives that few of us know about.
5.Archeology:We have such fabulous buildings in India, each of them with a story to tell!

Using all these ‘ingredients’, I now had huge possibilities: I could make my hero travel, meet all sorts of people, some good, some bad , make friends with homeless kids, discover some history (through ancient buildings and history of past owners) and much more.

I live on a farm in the suburbs of Pune.  Sitting at my desk in 2006 and onwards through the years, as I looked through my picture windows, the story began to unfold in my mind, and within a while Binna, my earthquake boy began to come to life. It wasn’t too long before the story was done.  
And just as I was moved in Jan 2001, I’m sure you, my readers, will be shaken up-think earthquake-by this story too. Enjoy Binna’s story!

To buy a copy of Earthquake Boy, click here.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Rohini Chowdhury "

   Published by Puffin India,Tales from the Kathasaritsagara is a collection of nested stories from author and translator, Rohini Chowdhury. The lesser-known tales are a treat not just for kids but also adults. Rohini tells us more about this book of unique tales.

How did you enter the world of translation?

Growing up in the multilingual world that is India, translation was an inevitable and inextricable part of my life. We move effortlessly across languages, often without even realising that we are doing so. The UK – where I have now lived for the past 23 years – is, by contrast, a staunchly monolingual world. I realised very soon that my daughters would most likely grow up to be more comfortable in English than in any Indian language, and it became very important to me that they should be able to access and read the stories I grew up with – if not in the original language, then at least in English. And so I began translating, little stories I had heard in my childhood, and then, seriously, the Panchatantra, from the original Sanskrit into English. But these were all still personal projects, meant only for my daughters.

At that time, I also began reading Hindi literature, in particular the Bhakti poets. And I also had the great good fortune to meet Dr Rupert Snell, who was then at SOAS, and who introduced me to the Braj Bhasha text, Ardhakathanak, the autobiography of Banarsidas, merchant, poet, and Jain spiritual thinker. The Ardhakathanak – which has the distinction of being the first autobiography in an Indian language – is a fascinating text, spanning as it does the reigns of three Mughal emperors, Akbar, Jahangir and Shajahan.  I was captivated, and suggested to Ravi Singh (Speaking Tiger – but who was then with Penguin) that Penguin bring out the Ardhakathanak in translation. “Why don’t you translate it for us?” said Ravi. I was taken aback – I was not a translator! But Ravi was very persuasive, and with his and Dr Snell’s encouragement, I took it up, translating the Ardhakathanak first into modern Hindi and then into English in free verse. And so began my journey as a literary translator, with the encouragement and support of two wonderful people, Ravi Singh and Dr Rupert Snell.

Which languages do you work with as a translator?

I translate primarily from Hindi – modern and pre-modern – into English.

How do you choose which works to translate? Can you tell us a little bit about some of your translations?

I prefer to translate works that appeal to me at a personal appeal and which also hold a place of significance in Hindi literature. For instance, the Ardhakathanak, which, in addition to being remarkably interesting, also has the distinction of being the first autobiography in an Indian language. I have also translated Babu Devaki Nandan Khatri’s Chandrakanta – first published in 1888 in serial form, and then in a single volume in 1891, the novel was a runaway success and modern India’s first bestseller. Written in spoken Hindi, it is still extremely popular. Interestingly, it has been constantly in print since its first publication. One of my favourite books is Jainendra Kumar’s Tyagpatra – which I have translated into English as The Resignation. Jainendra, one of the giants of Hindi literature and Premchand’s ‘successor’, first introduced the psychological into Hindi literature, exploring through his writings the inner conflicts and turmoil of the individual rather than the wider social issues that had been Premchand’s concern. In Tyagpatra, he tells the story of Mrinal, a young woman abandoned by her family, her husband and society, for her insistence on living by the norms she believes in.  And most recently, I have translated Tulsidas’s 16th-century epic, the Ramcharitmanas, a retelling of the story of Ram in Avadhi. The cadences of Tulsi’s poem, unanimously regarded as the greatest achievement of Hindi literature, filled my childhood, and translating his great work has been incredibly rewarding.

 Why did you choose to retell the Kathasaritsagara? Is it a complete translation or an adaptation?  

Somadeva’s Kathasaritsagara is quite a remarkable work. Its title, which means ‘the ocean of the rivers of story’, is no exaggeration, for it contains more than 350 tales told across eighteen books in some twenty thousand stanzas. Some of the stories take us by surprise, such as that of the clever man who made himself a fortune from a dead mouse, or that of the wise doctor who cured the king of a deadly disease by giving him bad news. Others, such as the story of the kind and compassionate King Shivi, make us stop and reflect – on the gods and their ways, on deceit, trickery, and honour. But mainly, the stories entertain and divert. Though the Kathasaritsagara is concerned with life and living, its stories teach no moral lessons. Nor are the tales bound by any dominant theme, religion or point of view, but ramble without plan or any purpose except entertainment through their magical world. This makes the work unique in Sanskrit literature.

The Kathasaritsagara remains unparalleled in its appeal and the undiminished popularity of its tales over the centuries. Its stories are found all over the world – in the more or less contemporary Arabian Nights, in Celtic folklore, and in collections such as the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. Its influence can be seen in later works such as Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1387 CE) and Boccaccio’s Decameron (1353 CE). In continuing to inspire modern writers such as Salman Rushdie with his novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, it remains one of the most influential and best-known non-religious works of Sanskrit literature.

Given its influence and importance and the universal appeal of its stories, the Kathasaritsagara is, in my opinion, the perfect introduction to the wonders of Sanskrit literature for young readers. It is also a personal favourite. So when Puffin’s Sohini Mitra asked me whether I would be interested in the retelling, in abridged form, Somadeva’s great work for the Puffin Classics series, I was overjoyed. I could not imagine a more delightful task, nor a more fitting text to be part of the Classics series – and so I accepted at once. It has been one of the most enjoyable projects I have undertaken.

It is not a complete translation – in fact, it is not a translation in the strict sense of the term, but a retelling and adaptation. As I mentioned above, Somadeva’s original work consists of more than 350 stories, told in some 20,000 verses across eighteen books. My retelling consists only of some 50 or so representative stories. Somadeva’s work was not a work aimed at children. My retelling, however, is adapted for and aimed at young readers – and my selection of stories has been primarily directed by that consideration. Also, the original is often long-winded and confusing – Somadeva uses the narrative technique of the frame story, in which stories are contained within stories, sometimes to so many levels that it is easy to forget the beginning. I have retained Somadeva’s basic framed-narrative structure – because that is an important aspect of the work as a whole – but have simplified it considerably, keeping in mind both readability and accessibility for the young reader.

What was the biggest challenge in adapting the Kathasaritsagara for young readers?

Given its length and its often-complicated story-within-a-story structure, the biggest challenge was to pick out stories that were both representative of the text as well as age-appropriate for my target audience while retaining the structure and feel of Somadeva’s original work.

What is your process of translation? Do you create a rough translation of the entire book and then fine-tune the script?

Before I begin translating, I read the entire book, even if I have read it before, from a translation perspective. A key element in translation is to find the right register – once that is established, the translation flows more or less smoothly. So before I embark on translating the full text, I take a sample chapter – or stories, or verses, as the case might be – and experiment on that till I am satisfied that I have found the right register. This usually takes several re-works and can be very time-consuming. Once I am happy with the style, tone, register of this sample, I take up the rest of the translation. And no, I do not create a rough translation first – I polish and fine-tune each day’s work as I go on. I cannot proceed unless the work I have already done satisfies me.

Which is the most difficult book translation you have done so far?

Without a doubt, Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas has been the most difficult. Tulsidas was a man of deep spiritual insight and a poet of extraordinary talent. It has been a challenging – and rewarding – journey to follow behind him. My translation does not do justice to Tulsi’s extraordinary poetic genius. His use of wordplay, his rhymes and alliteration, and the sheer musicality of his poem I have found impossible to capture in English. I have therefore contented myself with being as clear and accurate as possible in my translation, and to convey, to the best of my ability, the scale and grandeur of his great poem.

 Any advice for aspiring translators? What skills/qualities does a good translator need?

Pick a work that you can engage with intellectually as well as emotionally. Translating books is slow work, and can often feel quite onerous. So, make sure you take up only those texts to translate which are meaningful to you.

Patience, persistence, attention to detail, sensitivity to and awareness of different cultures (because translation is not only a bridge across languages but also across the cultures those languages represent and carry), an ear for language and rhythm -these are just some of the requirements of being a translator.

Can one make a living by translating books and other media?

I don’t know about other media, but books – no, not really, not for the majority of translators. There is no money in translation. It is very much a labour of love.

You have also authored several books.  What do you enjoy more? Writing or translation?

I love both. Each has a different joy to it. When I am writing a novel, for instance, I can go as far as my imagination and my writing ability will take me – though I do have to keep in mind the demands of structure, plot etc. The challenge here is to create a brand new work. When I translate, the challenge is different – to create, in another language, the work of another writer, faithfully and in as authentic a fashion as possible. Both are creative, both require commitment, and each gives its own, deep satisfaction. 

 To buy a copy of The Tales of Kathasaritsagara, click here.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Suman Bajpai : Translator

 Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, storyteller,
 and a travel writer. She has been translating children books for over twenty years.
 Read on to know more about her world of books and translation.

1.     How did you enter the world of translation? Which languages do you translate?

I really don’t remember exactly, how it happened, but after completing my journalism, as I was into writing already and writing for magazines and newspapers and was a talker at All India Radio, I did translate my first book on Rajiv Gandhi, in 1986. At that time there was no plan in my mind to get into this field. I happened to meet the then Editor of Children’ Book Trust in 1987, who gave me a book ‘ Indira Priyadarshini’ to translate and after some time, he also offered me a job for Sub-Editor there and after that, I had started translating books from English to Hindi to promote their Hindi programme.

I translate from English to Hindi and some books I did from Hindi to English also. After CBT I had worked with many magazines and besides writing original work, translation continued. And slowly it became my passion.

1.     How many books have you translated so far?

I had translated so far more than 130 books (for children, as well as adult books). Apart from that done many projects for different ministries and other publications.

3. What's the biggest challenge in translating a book?
               Suman Bajpai: Books

The biggest challenge in translating a book is to understand what the writer is trying to convey. Especially in children’s books, you have to be very sure what you are putting in words in for of translation. You can’t liberty in their books which is easier to take in adults’ stories or novels. I feel translation is a more difficult task than to write an original piece. Original piece or book carry your thought, but in translation, you are interpreting and transforming the thoughts of another person. But challenges inspire me to take up difficult book every time.

4.     What is your process of translation? Do you create a rough translation of the entire book and then fine-tune the script?

First of all, I read the whole book to understand the author and her/his idea on that particular subject. This was I can do justice with the book. I do the translation of the entire book and then start reading it all over again, but this time not keeping the English version with me. I feel that every book has an identity of its own, so it is important to have a flow in the book. The book should not look as if translated, it should read as a fresh book. 

5.     Which is the most difficult book translation you have done so far?

The most difficult and challenging book I did is The Middle Passage by V.S. Naipaul. It was in colloquial language and was hard to understand the language as well as the whole atmosphere created by the author.  In 1960 the government of Trinidad invited V. S. Naipaul to revisit his native country and record his impressions. In this classic of modern travel writing, he has created a deft and remarkably prescient portrait of Trinidad and four adjacent Caribbean societies–countries haunted by the legacies of slavery and colonialism and so thoroughly defined by the norms of Empire that they can scarcely believe that the Empire is ending.

Then classics of Jane Austin and Thomas Hardy.

6.     Any advice for aspiring translators? What skills/qualities does a good translator need?

I would only say that if you want to choose this field, then start reading books to enhance your vocabulary and to understand which word is appropriate in that given situation as a single word has many meanings. You need to understand for which age group you are translating a book and who are the readers.

For translation also like writing you need to have an ability to observe things.

7.     Can one make a living by translating books and other media?
  Yes, it depends how passionately you are into this. 

8.     You have also authored several books.  What do you enjoy more? Writing or translation?

I enjoy both; original writing is much easier as it is your baby whereas while 
translating a book you are giving shape to someone else baby that too in a 
different language.

9.     Is the remuneration for book translation satisfactory?

In compare to translating from Hindi to English or any other language, Hindi media and publishers pay very less.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Author Interview : Debashish Majumdar

Writing for kids has been Debashish Majumdar's passion for over two decades. He has written books for kids of all ages.  Mango DC recently released two of his e-books-Tiger Comes Home and The Magical Sunglasses. Debashish shared info on his books  and writing.

How did you get into the world of writing?
As a little boy, I was sent by my parents to live with my maternal grandparents in Shillong. My grandfather had a small library of his own. He encouraged me to read and write stories on my own.  My grandfather was not only a very literary person, but he would also routinely listen to the BBC World Service. So, I too had taken fancy to listen to short stories broadcast over the BBC. Surprisingly, I wrote my first short story at the age of fifteen for the BBC World Service and I received a lot of praise and encouragement from the Broadcasting Director of the BBC.

What was your first book about?
 My first book was a picture book, Granny’s Day Out published by National Book Trust, India. It relates to the adventures of a granny for a day. It is a hilarious book and was highly applauded in writing circles and children who have read it loved the book. Of course, I was successful with my short stories for children in competitions with the Children’s Book Trust, New Delhi and several stories of mine found their way into 21 anthologies during my early years into writing. 
I have received till date, fifteen national awards.

Do you test your stories and poems with the kids before they are published?
During my early years, I regularly tested my stories with kids. Sadly, a few of my stories and novels received tremendous appreciation from the target group audience. Yet, when I sent out these stories to publishers, they simply rejected what could have been potential bestsellers. Many of my stories which received a rousing reception from children are lying on my table gathering dust. So, I realized that most editors in India don’t care much for books which excite kids. Nowadays, I go by intuition on the kind of stories kids relish. Thankfully, it's working well. In India, editors don't want to take risks with niche ideas and innovative themes. Most of the stories they select for the publishing belong to familiar territories.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing a children’s author in India today?

I strongly feel that today in India there are too many authors chasing too few publishers. Again, after a book is selected and published, the marketing network of most publishers are weak. With the advent of social media and online sales, however, sales have improved. Publishers like Scholastic who sell their books through the schools' route are doing well in a highly competitive market.

Are you a full-time author?
Professionally, I am a qualified marketer from the UK. Since almost my entire career I was on marketing jobs which involved a fair share of travelling, my nature of work was contradictory to my writings. I usually do a lot of research before I write a book. After long hours of working in organizations, I was engulfed in fatigue at the fag end of the day. I was too tired to write stories on a regular basis.

How much has Indian children’s literature changed since your first book appeared?
I was introduced to the world of children’s literature by the Association of Writers and Illustrators of Children’s Books (AWIC). Over the years, Indian writing for kids has moved from a more traditional base to more flexibility in writing. Though most writers won’t agree with me, stories with moral value still continue to find a wide readership base. One of the reasons can be because parents are still choosing the books for their kids and they believe strongly in value-based stories. Again, with the advent of social media greater awareness is being created and one can access the current trends in publishing.

What was your inspiration for the two Mango books?
I love writing animal stories. When I jot down animal tales, I always look at them from a kid’s perspective Tiger Comes Home is another very funny picture which is a fast-paced adventure of a tiger who wants to eat up a boy. The boy acts cleverly on each occasion and finally gets rid of the greedy tiger at the end. My book, The Magical Sunglasses is hilarious. It relates to a little girl who finds a pair of trendy sunglasses lying on the corridor and wears it. She is transposed into a different world. Were the sunglasses magical? Another hilarious finish to the book.

Do you have a daily writing schedule? If yes, then what is your daily routine like?
Unfortunately, I am not a disciplined writer. I don’t have a writing schedule. I am an avid reader. I read a lot of books from the library. I used to also purchase a lot of books for kids. One of my major setbacks is that I am a very impatient writer. I write a story very quickly, revise it and shoot it off to a publisher. Many of my highly commendable works have fallen by the wayside as publishers don’t take back the manuscript after further revision. When a story is born within me, I type out the story on a computer immediately. I don’t follow a regular routine.

Glasses are a common theme in books. Were you aware of it while writing the story? Are you worried about its reception from readers as they will compare the book to the others? 
Maybe glasses is a common theme in books. A writer has to generate ideas from common objects around him or her. I feel as long as the story is unique and original it does not matter. No, I was not aware of it while writing the story. Kids look at books from the angle of originality, individuality and they don’t mind common themes as long as one book is different from the other. The Magical Sunglasses is very original. As a matter of fact, I never plagiarize stories as a result of which the first 100 short stories submitted to leading national magazines for kids like Tinkle, Champak, Magic Pot, Chandamama, Junior Chandamama and Children’s World  ONLY TWO were rejected! That’s because all my ideas are original!

What’s your latest book from Pauline about? Who is the target audience? Is it early chapter book or middle grade?
My latest book from Pauline is a collection of short stories titled Mysterious Silly Billy and Other Stories. The Pauline editors in their submission criteria only look for stories with strong moral values. So, Silly Billy contains original stories for 10-13-year-olds which do not preach moral lessons but each original story leads to the fulfilment of moral action. In fact, in 2018, my book Hilltop Ghost and Other Stories, another Pauline publication sold over 10,000 copies in India and abroad. Pauline publications also requested that mystery and ghost stories should also have moral value in each such story. So, let me assure you it’s really difficult to write value-based mystery and ghost stories as they are a different genre clubbed together.

Will the e-book format of your two books help or hamper the promotion? 
 A lot will depend on the publisher of an e-book format to bring to the limelight the online channels of an e-book. Unlike a printed picture book I can’t promote them among kids by attending literary festivals. Nowadays, with social media publishers are in a strong position to publicize e-books. However, I think that print editions of books have much higher visibility in bookstores. An e-book always carries equal weight as a print version as far as the content is concerned. Kahani Takbak is also doing a great job of bringing newly published e-books to the forefront of writers and readers alike.  

You can download Mango DC 's app and buy Debashish's latest books at

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