She has been an ambassador of two cultures – Oriya and Assamese. Rather a bridge between the two. If Orissa has been her home, Assam has been her home-away-from home for the past two decades. She is
Jyotsna Biswal Rout
, a professor in Oriya at the Guwahati University and winner of the recently announced Central Sahitya Akademi award for literary translation. Shyamhari Chakra spoke to the writer-scholar-translator in Guwahati last week. Excerpts:
Who are the Assamese writers you have translated into Oriya?
So far I have translated novels of 10 prominent writers. They include Chandra Prakash Saikia, Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Indira Goswami, Harekrishna Deka, Nirupama Borgohain, Laxmi Narayan Bora and Apurba Sarma. Most of the books have won the Sahitya Akademi awards and the Akademi has also published the Oriya versions of these titles. I have also translated the Madala Panji (chronicle of the Jagannath temple) and Prativa Ray’s Ullanghan from Oriya to Assamese.
How did you gain a grip over the Assamese language?
As a student of Oriya language and literature (she is an MA. Ph.D and D.Litt. holder in Oriya from Utkal University and served a few years as a lecturer in Oriya in Kujanga College, Jagatsinghpur), I was always fond of learning other languages. When I came to Assam following my marriage to an IPS officer (an IGP now), I had to learn the local language. My husband further encouraged me to read Assamese newspapers that really helped me to develop a love for the rich Assamese literature and culture. Since I thoroughly enjoyed reading Assamese literature, I wished to translate these great works into my language to enable our people to share that joy. And I take pride in teaching Assamese at University level today, writing columns and essays and addressing literary gatherings and seminars in Assamese as well.
You have been the first and only professor in Oriya at Guwahati University for the past 15 years. Do students take interest in Oriya language and literature here?
We offer a one-year diploma course in Oriya and the seats were doubled this year to 20. At present five scholars are undertaking research under my guidance for their doctorate degree. This indicates the growing demand for the subject. Oriya comes under the Modern Indian Languages (MIL) department that encourages study of comparative literature. So study of Oriya helps them to go for further research on language, literature and culture. For my specialisation in language, comparative literature and culture and translation, I have been invited to present papers in Indonesia, Malayasia, Egypt, Turkey and Thailand. Thus, I believe that there is enough scope for academic achievements through this study.
You have done your best for promotion of Assamese literature and culture?
How has been the response to your work from the people here?
I am happy you asked me this because I really wanted to acknowledge the unalloyed love and respect I have been receiving here from the people, the government and the media. (She shows a letter from the present chief minister praising her for her service to Assamese society and the national award for translation). I am the first non-Assamese to be invited as an executive member of the well-known Assam Sahitya Sabha and a life member of the Assam Women Writers’ Forum. The Sabha has also twice conferred its major literary awards on me. I am a regular writer for their prestigious monthly literary magazine Goriyasee for which I write on Orissa’s culture besides short stories. They take pride in me that I speak, teach and write in their language and highlight their culture. They even want us to settle down in Guwahati after our retirement. What more could a teacher and writer aspire for!
Do you miss links with your roots in Orissa?
Even if I and my family are away for 20 years, we preserve our cultural identity and try to serve Oriya culture to the best our ability. My husband was the president of the Oriya Association here. My daughters are very keen to learn Odissi dance. And as the executive member of the Assam Sahitya Sabha, I have convinced the Sabha and the Orissa Sahitya Akademi to collaborate in launching three literary and cultural exchange projects soon.