Saraswathi D. is an activist, a writer, an academic, a performer, storyteller, and a translator. She has spent the last several months translating what is perhaps India’s most important text on the history of Dalit women’s activism, We Also Made History: Women in the Ambedkarite Movement in Maharashtra by Urmila Pawar and Meenakshi Moon.
Written originally in Marathi, the book was translated into English by Wandana Sonalkar of Aalochana, a women’s group based in Pune. Saraswathi does not read Marathi, and is only working from the English, something that would give translation purists a mild heart attack. But for Saraswathi, there is a singular motivation: this book is too important, and needs to be available in different languages now. If the only way to do it is via another language, so be it. She talks about the work that goes into doing a translation: researching the subject, contacting the authors if available, checking out the pronunciation of words so as to render them as they are meant to be heard and read, and so much more. She does all this because for her, translation is a deeply political act.