Tuesday, January 20, 2009

[Part 1 of the Whole Story of how I came to doing this.

A few months back, I wrote this post on my blog, describing a book I picked up on impulse and loved. Towards the end, I wondered why no one tried a similar project for Hindi pulp. The question was prompted by a rather selfish motive - I'd seen these pulp books since childhood, and even read one or two by Colonel Ranjit - but had never had the courage to jump in. My reading speed in Hindi, anyway, was much less than English, and my vocabulary wasn't that great. It would nice to have someone find out about the Hindi pulps, especially the ones that had attracted my attention from the beginning - the detective novels and the horror and fantasy books, choose the best of the lot and translate them for me to read.

Rakesh Khanna of Blaft responded to my post almost immediately (see the comments on that old post). Was I interested in taking up such a translation project?

I was really taken aback. But thinking over it, it seemed like a god sent opportunity. I'd done some translation from Hindi to English for movie subtitles before, and had even helped my mother with Gujarati to Hindi translations. If interest in the books counted as a criterion, I was definitely the best guy for the job. I said yes.

The first chance I got, I went down to the Bangalore Railway station, and the bus stand next to it, to try and find some Hindi pulp to look over. Would you believe there's not a single shop in all of Bangalore that sells the stuff? It's either Kannada or English. Not enough readers to justify selling Hindi, apparently, though there are a couple of shops that sell serious Hindi literature.
I called up my relatives in Pune, Mumbai, Indore, Delhi to see if they could look up and send me some books. At the same time, I made another discovery - Surender Mohan Pathak has a fan club on Orkut! I joined the club and asked folks about which of his books were good and so on.

By then, I'd gotten a few books from folks in better-placed cities - one each of Surender Mohan Pathak, Ved Prakash Sharma, and Raj Bharati. Reading them through convinced me that Surender Mohan Pathak was the best of the three for a translation project. I also managed to get 'best-of' book lists from the Orkut group, from which I selected one good candidate to start with.

This was 'Painsath Lakh ki Dakaiti'.

Deciding that this would make a good translation was one thing. Actually figuring out what to do next, and how to start, was another thing entirely. How do I know whether I can do this? How do publishing rights for translations work? Would Pathak be interested in letting me do this? How do I get to him?

[The saga continues... wait for the next part, to be posted whenever my boss isn't around the office :) ]

Monday, January 19, 2009

Like most other things, it takes a while to polish one's responses to the standard questions: What do you do? Where are you from? What are your hobbies? Moving to a new company in Bangalore has forced me into creating simple, one-liner answers to these questions, even if not totally accurate.

For instance, when someone asks me what my hobbies are, my standard reply is, "I'm interested in everything except sports and politics."

I had someone ask me last week about it: It's a good thing, isn't it, to be so enthu about everything? Must be fun!

After thinking over it for a while, I have an answer to that: I don't know. At least, it isn't fun in the way you think it is. Here's what I went through when I was reading the newspaper - the leisure section - yesterday morning. My thoughts are in italics.

The back page has an article about Prince... they talk about his new album being a worthy successor to When Doves Cry and among his good stuff. Haven't heard Doves properly - I need to hear it. There's an article about Van Morrison performing Astral Weeks live somewhere. Aargh, haven't heard that either - I've heard nothing but Brown Eyed Girl.... The books page talks of a new collection by Arun Kolatkar. I need to get Jejuri soon and read it. Also this new one, The Boatride. And he mentions Nissim Ezekiel.. When am I going to start reading that collected poems set of his?

On to the movies section, and I go nuts. Wong Kar-Wai! I need to watch more of his stuff. Oh boy, how can I miss The Eiger Sanction? Clint Eastwood! Oh, Yojimbo's based on Red Harvest... I need to read more Hammett. Apparently, N.N. Kakkad was a big poet in Malayalam who combined tantric tradition and a modern sensibility. I need to find out about this guy.

On to the next page. Chettinad looks like a lovely place to visit. So does Mangalore. Wow, Skiiing at Auli. When can we go? Man, they're doing amazing stuff with resorts in Rajasthan - more heritage resorts! Do they serve Daal-Baati as well?

Wow, two new restaurants in Bangalore! Oh, one is all kebabs, so no point in going. But this other place serves stuff I don't know about! What are we doing next weekend?

And on and on - All that was only from one newspaper. It goes on all the time. The more you're interested in, the more you have left to do. There's no way to catch up and all you can do it to keep running, keep experiencing.

Doesn't mean I'd give any of this up, of course :).