I began translating accidentally in 2005, with the Bengali anti-establishment, experimental and maverick Little Magazine writer Subimal Misra. That was like being unwittingly thrown into the deep end of the pool. I would either drown, or learn to swim and survive. I had grown up in a Tamil-speaking household in Calcutta, and when I joined college and then university in the late 70s I entered the ‘Bengali’ world around me. I embraced public activism in 1984, joining the movement of the city’s squatters, protesting against evictions and demolitions and demanding resettlement. I got married the following year to Rajashi, a Bengali. Thus, I had been through two decades of ‘Bengalification’, and also an activist, anti-establishment and grassroots engagement in my city when I took up translation. That began a new journey, an engagement with the Bangla language itself, and a process of learning about the ‘mainstream’ and the ‘parallel’ in Bengali literature, the publishing world, and the literary establishment.
I never studied literature, but I had been a lifelong lover and avid reader of literature in and through English. I knew to read Bangla from elementary school; but now, in translating, it was my proficiency in understanding Bangla that was at play, imbibed through living in Bengal and participating in its social, cultural and political life. I was lucky to be introduced by a friend to V.K. Karthika, then with HarperCollins India, who agreed to publish my work.