The Fellowship of the Book

In praise of Anthea Bell…

A Translator’s View

What a great mind!!!

One language to perceive all, one language to guide them,

One language to enchant them all, and in the magic bind them…





A Garland of Anecdotes…


‘When in doubt, follow your nose’. That was Gandalf speaking, not me.

Introducing a child to the marvellous world of Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, M.R.James  and their ilk is an adventure in itself.  One is amazed at how much joy is out there, if only one reaches out!

True to all children, my young daughter sniffed haughtily when I suggested that we watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.’ I have seen Legolas already. I also remember orcs and dwarfs,’ she said, remembering ‘The Hobbit’ series.  Besides, whatever Amma suggests, should be treated first with a sniff.

True to all mothers, I ignored her upturned nose royally, and played the movie. Fifteen minutes into it, she snuggled closer. When the bed time came, she protested that it was unfair: she had to go to bed when the Nazgul chief – The witch king of Angmar- had just stabbed Frodo with his evil blade. I grinned and extended the bed time allowance till Frodo reached Rivendell safe.

Suffice to say that by this week, she knows everything about everybody in the Tolkien trilogy. My next attempt is to get her read the original. Her sister has taken the tome with her to University, so little girl waits patiently for the Return of the Book.

Meanwhile I got her ‘ The Hobbit’.


I am charmed by the quality of authenticity in people. Human beings who remain grounded in spite of what this worldly life had showered them with- both good and bad and all in between.

So this brilliant editor offers to read through my translation of vernacular poetry and give his feedback. He is kind enough to appreciate the few lines that I quote to him. I reflect on the quality of humility that binds both him and the original writer of the poetry.

In a few months’  time, we will see a poetry book in English take shape: thanks to a Bengali editor who gave feedback to poems that were originally written in Malayalam. It shall be published in Hindi heart-land.

A garland made of languages. The bridge to accessing human thoughts and becoming better versions of ourselves.



Seeing Through The Maze

Recently, I got an opportunity to address prosecuting officers on Gender Sensitization. Since I am currently translating a novel, based on sight or rather lack of it, I found myself connecting the two concepts and explaining what my perspective was, on the topic, to the alert, erudite group.

Since I was using a mix of languages to communicate, one in which I am fluent and another, which often trips me up by its intricate grammar, I often paused to get the correct word. Towards the end of the session, the audience and I , came to the conclusion that all “words ” do not mean the same thing. The word which I used in Hindi hardly meant the same as the one in English. Neither did one person’s perspective match another’s on the same topic.

I acknowledged the brilliance of the author of the book, who very intuitively had pointed out that blindness often meant things far deeper than a darkness of vision. If you cannot “see” the way I do, you are “blind” to what I am trying to show you. Same with my inability to appreciate what you are struggling to tell me.

Finally, we all agreed,(or so I hoped!) that any sensitization relied on the word “respect”. With that fundamental building block, one could at least move ahead with hope. Without that word, without feeling deep inside, another’s right to be happy and joyous; there wasn’t much chance to becoming a sensitized human being.

Someone quoted Ghalib then:
” I kept cleaning up the mirror all my life
The dust, actually, had been in my own eyes.”

” Nazariya, drishtikon, nazar, sight, perspective, feeling, thinking, view point, outlook, my way…” said the participants when we debated on how they defined their own vision. In a room of 75, we had so many perspectives. How can we focus all of them through the converging lens of “respect” and make all realise the value of not trying to degrade another human being? That, we can win cases without robbing another of her dignity; without telling her that she is “bad ” or “fallen” in the eyes of x, y,, society, culture…? For a second, in one’s inner eye, to put one’s own daughter, sister,loved one in the place of that disturbed person before you, requiring just a bit of decency in speech and tone and behaviour? Irrespective of whether he/she is guilty or innocent?

Perhaps, one of them, somewhere years hence, would face a situation when tear filled eyes would look up at her/him from the opposite stand. The pressure would be on the speaker to ” go all out” after the jugular. Can she/he desist the tendency and speak with respect?
I rest my case, I said.

When they gave me tea, they said they were calling me back again:)