Tishani Doshi’s latest novel begins in Paramankeni, a far-flung coastal village in Tamil Nadu. The protagonist, Grace, has returned from America to take ownership of a house left to her by her recently deceased mother. There’s another legacy too—a sister she never knew about. This, however, is a mixed blessing as Lucia has Down’s syndrome and requires full-time care.
“These amazing women dominated their environments, each in her own different way, and set up a dynasty that is unique to not just India but world history even today.” Thus ends The Women Who Ruled India: Leaders, Warrior, Icons, the recent book by Archana Goradia Gupta, pretty much summing up the twenty stories it narrates.
The number of books incorporating “the Idea of India” into their title in recent times is indicative that this idea has been in a crisis for a while. Siddhartha Sarma’s Carpenters and Kings is one more response to this crisis of India, dealing with an oft-ignored population group. In an environment where the Hindu Right suggests that Christianity and Islam are foreign to India, this book seeks to “set the record straight” and demonstrate that the history of Christianity in India is a nearly two-millennia-long story of great complexity.
A war correspondent and overseas bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, Megan K Stack never had much occasion to concern herself with gender equality even when she married another foreign correspondent and the two moved to Beijing a decade ago. But their marital dynamics changed when Stack became pregnant. She quit her job and stayed home with the baby; her husband Tom became the sole breadwinner and continued to jet off to remote parts of China and other countries on assignment.
Sudipta Sen appears to have premised his encyclopedic Ganga: The Many Pasts of a River on the words of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru: that the story of Ganga was the story of Indian civilization and culture. Written over twelve years using a wide range of sources from Hindu scriptures, archeological findings, writings of foreign travellers, and historical documents, Sen’s history of India’s “national river” begins in the mythological past and ends with controversies around the dams built on the river. It explores how the river and its valley have “sustained the imaginative life, material culture and daily subsistence of millions of inhabitants of the subcontinent.”
It may come as a surprise to Indians, although perhaps it should not, that were colonizers who were less than comfortable with the entire project of colonization. With the advantage of hindsight, and the availability of archives, the new writing about the empire has begun to disrupt the boundaries the colonized and the colonizers as mutually exclusive categories. One new book in this vein is Kief Hillsbery’s The Tiger and the Ruby: A Journey to the Other Side of British India, the account of a clerk who came to Calcutta to make a career but soon sabotaged it by getting himself transferred to a provincial city, and later on disappeared from India but did not return to England.
Translating poetry gives rise to a number of problems which may not be present in prose. Poetic language is different from that of prose; it employs many more literary devices. Furthermore, its rhythms may be quite different or varied. Then there is the question of rendering form and meter, not to mention rhyme, if it’s present, which brings on more language difficulties. Poetry may aslo indirectly allude to things through symbols, and these, too, have to be conveyed meaningfully to the reader. Factor in the translator’s own emotional response to the work and what may be perceived as the poet’s “intentions” (often rather opaque), and you have a formidable obstacle to overcome. In short, what medium is best suited to the translation of verse?