Founder person of Katha, a Padma Shri recipient, a writer, an editor and an educator - Geeta Dharamarajan is a multi-faceted personality. She has over 30 books to her credit. She is passionately involved in uniting India's different language communities and she believes that translation is the most effective means to achieve that. Here, she enlightens us on her innovative and award winning endeavour of uniting the nation through more of translation work.
How do you see books as a medium for connecting new generation with their roots?
Books are a great medium to culture-link and transform individuals and communities through stories. Translation is seen as a total process which identifies, understands and celebrates differences in language, cultural practices and beliefs. Given the cultural and linguistic diversity of India, it is imperative that we develop a systematic method to develop literary translation as a critical and creative effort. Good Translations communicate the élan and evocativeness of the original stories from Indian languages to readers of all ages.
What kind of changes have you observed in reading trends over the years? Do you think children are interested in reading about the various early civilisations and historical facts?
India has an exciting linguistic map. But over time we have lost our taste for languages. And in the process we have strengthened the walls of regionalism. We grow more insular and become monolingual. We need literary translation as a counter-divisive tool for nation building.
In your opinion what are the ways to kindle the interest of young readers for the bygone eras?
India has always been a land of storytellers. Told by traditional katha vachaks, village storytellers and our grand-parents we have all heard stories that have taught us our values, our morals, our culture. “Katha” or the narrative is a special legacy that continues to exist in our country as a rich and fascinating tradition, moving with grace and felicity from the oral traditions to the written texts, from the heard word to the read.
Do you think there could be different and better ways of introducing past to young generation?
Katha believes that stories in translation can not only lead to self- revelations but also give us access to insights and skills needed to live in a pluralistic society like India. Stories can and do help develop active tolerance for other cultures, an ability that comes from a greater maturity and understanding of diverse perspectives. Katha’s well-defined method enables India to use translation as a non-divisive tool that fosters culture linking. We applaud those wise teachers who have built these bridges through close reading of stories and critical texts. We seek stories that enhance our understanding of the contemporary in context with the historical in our lives, stories that help us to view literature as a means to transform the self, and the spaces we inhabit.
How do you see Katha books bridging the gap between present and past through their published books?
Striving to defy the onslaught of mass monoculture, Katha has been publishing translations of outstanding Indian regional literature for adults, acknowledged and appreciated by readers across the board. This has reaffirmed our faith that we are on the verge of a cultural, literary rediscovery! We have come to understand that stories are the only way to present and preserve the languages and culture of the country. And understand peoples, cultures and the flavours of a region. Stories can and do help develop active tolerance in us, an ability that comes from a greater maturity and understanding of ground realities. Stories are a vicarious way to learn more about ourselves.
Personally which section of history do you think is gravely been ignored by authors of our age?
It is not so much sections of history, but sections of people that have been ignored. This is being rectified by encouraging authors from different communities and cultures to write the narratives of themselves and their people.
As publishing of children's books in India is coming of age, what changes do you foresee in terms of content in the reading books?
Though some publishers have now come into translating for adults, translating for children is yet to develop a value which can leverage the creativity and vigour of stories in the bhashas, so as to attract the best of talents available in India and the diaspora today. It is in this context that Katha now focuses on translating India for children, and thereby helps them appreciate the heterogeneity of the country, and grow up as responsive, responsible citizens.