Bhawana Somaaya has been documenting famous lives for decades now, but her newest project has her translating the words of the most important man in the country.
The film critic, biographer and journalist’s upcoming book is titled ‘Letters to Mother’, a translation of the Gujarati book Saakshi Bhaav, a collection of letters by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The book features letters penned by a young PM to the Mother Goddess, whom he addresses as ‘Jagat Janani’, and explores his innermost anxieties, thoughts, observations and much more.
“Journalists can get sensitive about certain people they write about, there comes a point when we are told to stop being sensitive as if being sensitive is a crime. But here’s a man who is overflowing with sensitivity, not worried about being judged, and being vulnerable. In fact, after I was done reading the book I couldn’t believe the amount of intensity in it, how he had laid himself so bare,” Somaaya tells Kaveree Bamzai about the PM’s letters, during the recent edition of Indulge Time Pass. Excerpts:
On writing about great men
After a certain point when I would stop writing and turn on the TV, I wondered if this is the man I’m writing about. Even when I was working on a book on Amitabh Bachchan, meeting him or watching his movies was so distracting for my process.
Translation is far more difficult than writing, because when I’m writing I’m only responsible for myself, but this is a dual responsibility. Though Gujarati is my mother tongue, I had never studied Gujarati, I just know it sufficiently well. On top of that I have to sync in my voice, a female voice with the PM’s voice, a male voice.