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Kasturba Gandhi – Giriraj Kishore [Translated by Manisha Chaudhury]

Kasturba Gandhi – Giriraj Kishore [Translated by Manisha Chaudhury]

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Kasturba Gandhi – Giriraj Kishore [Translated by Manisha Chaudhury]

Yauvanika Chopra



What according to you are the greatest advantages and disadvantages of translating from Hindi to English?

Translating from Hindi to English has the advantage of relatability by a wide cross-section of people. Hindi is spoken by a very large number of people and English is understood by a  large number as well.The disadvantages also arise from this fact of your often bilingual readers. People’s judgements are much sharper because they all have a personal take on how they would say something in one language or the other.

 However, it is important to remember that there are many Hindis with unique regional flavours and variations,  all assimilated within it. While each Hindi has distinctive features, it will still be intelligible to Hindi speakers from a different region. To me, Hindi has always been Hindustani and I love the sisterly relationship between Hindi and Urdu. It is a challenge to render into English, the various registers that exist within the various Hindis.


What prompted you to translate this book in particular?

I am interested in Kasturba as a person. Being the partner of such an iconic figure as  Mahatma Gandhi could not have been easy. Her journey and growth was tremendous. He was a difficult husband and a father  who could not have become Mahatma Gandhi without her graceful support. Yet, she remains in the shadows of our national consciousness with occasional tokenistic schools or schemes being named after her. I was intrigued that Giriraj Kishore ji had done this fictionalised biography of Ba from the scant information that he could gather.


In this fictionalized biography of Kasturba Gandhi, what episode did you personally enjoy reading and translating the most? 

The South Africa episodes were very interesting in different ways. They all showed Kasturba’s transformation from a simple wife and mother into a person who gets drawn into larger social and political upheavals and becomes a satyagrahi. The parts where all members of the family are in various jails for offering satyagraha are powerful and give you a sense of the sweep of history changing lives forever. You cannot but admire Kasturba for stepping so far out of her comfort zone and enduring such hardship because she believed it was the right thing to do.


What was the most difficult portion to translate? Did you ever get stuck on a word or phrase in particular?

The latter part which is a countdown to her death written in extreme detail was difficult. It was harrowing and it was quite a challenge to capture the mood while also recording the minutiae of the medical treatment.


What are your own thoughts about Ba? What about her life and character has inspired you?

 I admire Ba. She shows a real trajectory of growth as a person. In spite of being in the august company of Bapu, she has a strong individuality and a very courageous response to all that life throws at her. Even with the comparatively limited information we have about her, you get a sense of her development as a political being while also remaining very human and relatable.

I am inspired by the qualities of warmth, honesty and courage that Ba brings forth and I believe that women bring unique responses and perspectives that have to be foregrounded. 


Are you working on a next book?

 After Ba, I have translated three children’s books into Hindi and they have just been published by Manan Books (an imprint of ignus Pahal), a not for profit publishing house that I have started with other colleagues from the education sector.

About the Interviewee:

With a firm commitment to working for social change, Manisha Chaudhry's work has been located in both the activist and literary space.
She began her publishing career with India's first feminist publishing house- Kali for Women in 1986.
She has since worked in English and Hindi as an editor and translator of fiction and non-fiction. She has also worked as a consultant with a range of development organizations on issues of gender, health and education.
Her work in translation has been published by Kali for Women, Zubaan Books, OUP, Niyogi Books and Pratham Books. In 2012, her translation of the Hindi novel Ailan Gali Zinda Hai was shortlisted for the DSC prize for Literature at the Jaipur Literature Festival.
From 2004- 2017, she was the editorial head at Pratham Books where she built up a list of children's fiction and non-fiction in multiple Indian languages against the backdrop of high enrollment and poor learning outcomes in millions of children coming to school for the first time in their families. She was also a Founder Trustee of Bookaroo Children's Literature Festival and initiated and nurtured the Children's Outreach of the Jaipur Literature Festival in Pratham Books.
She has advised the JUMPSTART festival and has been an active member of the FICCI Publishing Committee.
Having spearheaded many initiatives to promote reading among all children and bring equity in school education, she currently heads Manan Books ( an imprint of Ignus Pahal), a not for profit with a strong activist profile publishing multi-lingually for children, teachers and young people.