Delhi-based translator Nandini Guha is a (retd) Associate Professor of English from the College of Vocational Studies, University of Delhi. She received the Katha Award for translating Bani Basu’s novel, Dark Afternoons (Katha, 2007). Her other translations from Bangla to English are Taslima Nasreen’s autobiography, Wild Wind (Srishti Publishers, 2006) and Anita Agnihotri’s, Awakening (Zubaan, 2009).
She has also translated Professor Amalendu De’s award winning historical treatise, In Search of Siraj’s Son and Descendants (Parul Prakashini, 2015).
Two poems of Hindi Poet Vinay Vishwas translated by her have been published in the March-April 2019 volume of Indian Literature, Sahitya Akademi’s Bimonthly Journal.
A Plate of White Marble, her translation of Bani Basu’s novel, Swet Patherer Thala has just been published by Niyogi Books. The short story, Mrs Talukdarer Bondhu, awaits publication.
What is your writing schedule?
Two years ago, I was teaching full-time so my schedules were adjusted to that. I work very well with deadlines. The minute I know I have a deadline, I can work the night. I do not have a fixed schedule.
Does translating energise or exhaust you?
Translating actually excites me. I enjoy words. Finding the correct word is like an adventure, and the word has to be just perfect. As I work with original text, I cannot afford the meaning of that word to be away from what an author meant. It is only after I finish the first draft then the task becomes a little more laborious as a lot of technicalities come in after the first draft. Whenever I feel I am spending more than 10 minutes on a word, I leave blanks and carry on. This saves a lot of time.
Writing advice you’d like to give your younger self ?
Unfortunately, I really didn’t think of translations in the first half of my life. I had a fulltime teaching job, which in itself was a lot of work. I did my M.Phil after I had my two children, so I had to balance my job, family and studies during that time. I was actually about to register for my PhD, and that is when I lost my husband. When I got back to my responsibilities, I also needed my mind to be diverted. My desire to translate was always there, and when this change in my life happened I felt this is the best way to occupy my mind with something more positive and creative than just tensions and anxieties which naturally became a part of my life say 20 years ago. People tell me that you have this wonderful occupation, and I say this is something that helped me face life after a huge tragedy.
What are your favourite books?
My favourite dramatist is William Shakespeare, and I had a reputation in college that the only one who could teach Shakespeare was me. In fiction, I enjoy the historical, mystery and romances genre of writing. I also love reading Jane Austen’s works.
Literary success vs number of copies sold?
For me, ‘the number of copies sold’ is good to hear. But the fact that what I have written is there in print available for anyone who would be interested, is my biggest joy. Today, if you are ‘successful’, you must have sold so many copies. But my focus was to find a wider audience through translations, and make certain texts accessible for the whole world.
Favourite spot/s in Delhi you to write at?
I work the best when I am alone at home. I need quiet. I need to hear my brain working. I need to feel the words that I am going to put down on paper. I am not very tech-savvy, so I need to have lots of pens and papers around me, books for translation and dictionaries around me, that’s why I need the whole dining table at my house and not just a study table. But if I am able to found a beautiful spot under a tree in Delhi’s Lodhi Garden or say for instance in the Qutub Minar, where I can work undisturbed, I wouldn’t mind that.