Ira Pande is a writer and editor. She was worked for the Indian Express, Seminar, as well as the editor of the book review journal Biblio, followed by positions as the Managing Editor of Dorling-Kindersley and Chief Editor of Roli Books and the Publications Division of the India International Centre. Pande’s book on her mother, the famous Hindi writer Shivani, was published in 2005. Titled Diddi: My Mother’s Voice, it was shortlisted for the Hutch-Crossword Award for the Best Non-Fiction Work. She has translated Manohar Shyam Joshi’s novella, T-ta Professor, which won the 2009 Vodaphone-Crossword Award for Best Translation and the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2010.

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Kindly share the experience of your journey before becoming an editor. How did you get into becoming one?

I taught English Literature at Panjab University for about 16 years to post-graduate students, when my husband was transferred to Delhi. Since our children were still in school, I decided to resign that job (a big wrench) and follow him to Delhi. I was offered a job at the Indian Express Magazine as a part-time assignment and took it. That started me off on a new trajectory.
That stint was followed by editorial assignments at Seminar, Biblio, Dorling-Kindersley, Roli Books and ended with 6 years at the India International Centre as their Chief Editor. I left that job when I turned 60 and am now happily engaged in reading, writing and some freelance editing. Translations are a new field and am now involved with several translation projects.

How difficult, do you think, is the work of an editor?

It is a crucial job and unfortunately not given the attention it deserves. A person grows and matures as one learns the ins and outs of editing: most people still regard this as glorified copy-editing work. This is probably why many titles that even reputed publishing houses bring out today are sloppily edited.

There are so many authors flooding in with an intent to get their work published, however, the number of publishing houses stands limited. What is your take on that?

Good writing is rare and good writers even rarer. Sadly, commercial and marketing considerations have now taken precedence over good writing and a bestseller is rated according to the money it earns. Not all good books are meant to be bestsellers but this does not mean they should find no publishers. Fierce competition among publishers has unfortunately resulted in a reluctance to take risks with new writers and writing.

Kindly tell us about your literary endeavours.

My first book, Diddi: My Mother’s Voice was written after I lost my mother, Shivani, in 2003. Published in 2006, it became a bestseller and is still in the market as a different kind of experiment with biography, history and autobiography. I have translated several books, one of them — Manohar Shyam Joshi’s T-ta Professor — won the Crossword and Sahitya Akademi awards for best translation. I have also translated some of my mother’s work and am currently translating her memoir of her years in Santiniketan.
I write a fortnightly column in The Tribune and am an occasional writer in other journals. I have edited so many books that I have lost count but the IIC Quarterly volumes produced by me in the 6 years that I spent there are special to me.

What is your take on the battle of fiction and nonfiction nowadays?

Every genre has a time and it is the turn of non-fiction now. Poetry, plays, and novels have had their high noon, so perhaps what we are witnessing is a renewed attention in travelogues, biographies and political reportage. I enjoy all good writing: fiction or non-fiction.

What are you expecting from the upcoming Art and Literature Festival? How do you think can it be made different from other traditional literature festivals?

I look forward to meeting readers and learning from them and other writers. I like to talk about books to attentive audiences and since Dehradun is a city that has many friends, I am looking forward to catching up with them as well.

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