Edited By Deepa Agarwal
Despite a loudly professed enthusiasm for translations, readers often approach them cautiously. The problem isn’t just of inadequate translations; there’s also the English-reader’s difficulty in adapting herself to the sensibility of Indian languages. Reading a different-language text becomes like traversing a strange country without a map. Yet, eventually, one does get some rewarding glimpses, as in this eclectic collection of stories by Hindi women writers.
The writers belong to different generations, some eminent enough to be familiar even to non-Hindi readers: Mridula Garg, Rajee Seth, Chitra Mudgal, Mamta Kalia. However, the voices are confident; the surprise element that makes a story work is more often found in stories of younger writers. Like Alpana Mishra’s Homeless in the Cantonment, a story of an army wife, Pratyaksha’s The Hunt, Kavita’s poignant Transformation. They manage to overcome the occasional clumsiness in translation, unlike, sadly, Chandrakanta’s powerful The Dispossessed. How one longs for translators who make us forget we are reading a translated text! As Shama Futehally said, there are translations that keep readers “honourably reading away”, while others leave them “astounded and joyful”. Here, they leave readers “honourably reading away”.
Finally, if, as the editor says, women writers have “stepped out of ‘the inner courtyard’”, why do we need a collection of women’s stories? Why not end the segregation?