Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Hip, cool, vivacious and a li'l confused. It's difficult to slot the youngsters in one particular category; and so Penguin Books India's INKED, an imprint focusing on
Young Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction, hopes to connect with youngsters by giving them a chance to pick up books from a wide variety of genres.
The three inaugural titles, to be available in bookstores later this month, include Eliza Crewe’s Cracked — the first book of the Soul Eater trilogy — is a tale of the war between good and evil. Karma by Cathy Ostlere, is the story of how a young girl facing the demands of two cultures endures personal tragedy, and yet learns to forgive, accept and love. Vibha Batra’s Seventeen and Done (You Bet!), sequel to Sweet Sixteen, is set in high school and taps into emotions like romance, fashion, friendship and longing.
Talking about crafting content for youngsters, Ameya Nagarajan, says, “The dominant theme of the introductory titles, and those in offing, is that of the lives of young people – whether fantasy, sci-fi, or ordinary teenagers going through a difficult period. I kept an eye out for manuscripts that would meet the format. I kept browsing through fantasy and sci-fi forums, and when I met people who had writing talent and an interest in the genre, I asked them if they had thought of writing a book.”
However, Ameya is reluctant to call the new titles as the voice of young adults.
“I don’t think the genre lends itself to such sweeping statements, because teenagers are the hardest segment of people to categorise! The reason we chose these books was because each had a strong voice that we felt spoke to us and was something that young people could relate to.”
The INKED titles which hope to cater to readers between the ages of 13-21 seem a little wide-spread. This group is also heavily into gaming and chatting. Ask Ameya how the imprint will manage to hold their attention, and she makes her point with, “At the end of the day, whatever the age, a great story will capture and hold interest.”
Ameya also spills the beans on the name 'INKED'.
“The name is a play on words: Ink conjures up images of writing and printing but also in modern slang refers to tattoos. That’s how great words are; they can have secret meanings depending on the angle from which you’re looking at them. They can be a window to expression and creativity—just like tattoos are.”

Forthcoming titles
* A science-fiction novel by Shiv Ramdas
* Story of how Unmukt Chand made his mark on Under-19 cricket in India
* A poignant coming-of-age novel by award-winning author Ranjit Lal
* Best-selling novelist Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s hit high school drama

A chat with S Husain Zaidi

A few pages into S Hussain Zaidi's Dongri to Dubai – Six Decades of Mumbai Mafia – and you know this isn't a frothy work, like several Bollywood potboilers trying to decode the gang war for the viewers.
This depiction of the mafia in mainstream cinema becomes our talking point with the senior crime journalist who was in the city for an event.
Zaidi's pithy style of writing also dictated his choice of words, “Bollywood is the PR machinery of the underworld. It tries to glorify and gives their protagonists a heroic touch. I disagree with that.”
What separates the serious from the froth is the research. Explaining the way he goes about gathering material for his non-fiction books, Zaidi says, “I dig into old police records, I cull the details from there. I also chat up old timers and try to get an entire picture. I don't go by rumours or hear-say. I back up the information with facts.”
His no-nonsense credentials are known. But what does he have to say to about his tribe who might have to rub shoulders with unsavoury elements to get the truth?
Zaidi prescribes doctor-patient relationship to keep this malaise in check.
“I have always got in touch with the mafiosi only for work-related queries. I have not invited them to my shaadi nor have I attended theirs. My equation with them is like a doctor-patient relationship.”
And, yet the cinema continues to be charmed by the underworld. Zaidi agrees and also tries to bring a degree of authenticity to the films, when he is asked to collaborate as a writer. That said, Zaidi is trying to steer clear of underworld in his latest work. He is writing for Kabir Khan's next movie with Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif. Declaring that the film is under wraps, all that he chooses to reveal is, “I am working on an espionage thriller based on 26/11. No depiction of underworld in it.”
Meanwhile, he has co-written a book with Rahul Bhat on David Headley episode, Headley and I, that is touted to be made into a film.
For Zaidi, words have always metamorphosed into images.

From the other side

This is a book review of "A Restless Wind."

Name: A Restless Wind
By: Shahrukh Husain
Pages: 350
Published by: Picador India
Price: Rs 499

My first thoughts while reading this book was that it's very topical. Communal tensions are on a simmer and we read about the 'victim' stories ever so often. You will find all this in the 'A restless wind'. The only difference is that it's being narrated by a Pakistani woman – who was raised in India and the country of her birth.
Husain's protagonist, Zara Hamilton, was born in Karachi, but raised in Qila, a fortress in Trivikram, in Gujarat.
Zara's aunt (mother's sister) is a part of the Ramzi order, pirs, who are the Gurus of Hindu king of Trivikram. The royal lineage is the direct ascendant of Vamana (Lord Vishnu's avatar) and their association with the Ramzis is a symbol of communal harmony.
When she is urgently summoned by Aunt Hana to Qila, Zara decides to give her floundering marriage to Peter, little breathing space. Besides finding out what Aunt Hana wants her to discover, Zara has another mission. A lawyer, specialising in helping immigrants and asylum seekers in London, she wants to find out if there's a safe home for women destitute, unwelcome in the countries they have approached for asylum.
But her return rattles several skeletons and Zara's personal demons – secrecy surrounding her mother, Nyla, who had abandoned her when she was 8. She's also in conundrums about her feelings for the present day Maharaja of Trivikram, Jayendra Singh Vamana. They were madly in love when they were students at Oxford University, but the Maharaja had left without giving her any reason. The reason, becomes clear to her when the Ramzis are witch-hunted, was that their marriage would have cracked under the pressure of communal forces, besides causing irreversible damage to the Ramzis-Vamana relationship.
Being weighed down by her ancestry and her present, Zara's story is her journey in search of her identity – existential as well as the one mapped by geography. At the end of this journey, Zara learns that even though the social fabric has worn, some threads can't be snapped. Also, she finds all the answers to her questions in the Qila.
What doesn't work in this lyrical story, is the unnecessary clash of East vs West and another love story between Zara's niece and her cousin. In her attempt to tie up the loose ends, Husain also gets Nyla to connect with her daughter. Tightly packed with characters and overlapping stories of their own, it succeeds in distracting you briefly away from the core of the story – the war between races and religion become profound when it gets personal.

The Translated Work

I had attended a session on translated works at Sudarshan Rangmanch. This is the report.

Every language has its own nuances shaped by the community speaking it. There are those little jokes, imagery and references to socio-political and economic context used with a flourish by those speaking it.
The moot question before a translator is if these cultural references resonate within a speaker of a different tongue. Kalasakta Pune and Kelyane Bhashantar had recently organised a festival of translated literature which saw the reading session of 'Rabindranathanchya Sahwasat'. It was translated from the Bengali original - Mangputeche Rabindranath – by Vilas Gitay. Excerpts from Milind Champanerkar's, 'Lokshahivadi Ammi's, ek dirgha patra', translated from Saeed Mirza's, 'Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother', was also read out at the three day festival.
While chaste Marathi can sound a little harsh on ears, Gitay succeeded in retaining the original Bengali sweetness in the chat, banter and the poetic exchange between Tagore and Maitreyee Devi (author).
Gitay, who translated the book in 1988, says, “When I translate from Hindi or Bengali into Marathi, I use the syntax of Marathi. The reader should feel that the original author has written the book, not in Hindi or Bengali, but in Marathi.”
In fact when Gitay read a paper on 'Tagore in Marathi Translation' and also recited his Marathi translation of Tagore's poems at the Tagore Festival in 2010 organised by The Asiatic Society of Mumbai he received positive feedback from non- Marathi speakers.
William Radice, a Professor of Bengali in England and the translator of Geetanjali and Martin Kaempchen, a German scholar who speaks Bengali and lives at Shantiniketan, told Gitay, ' You successfully brought the rhythm of Tagore's poems in Marathi.'
Besides written and oral command over the two languages, as aforementioned, it is equally important to get the socio-political context right.
Milind Champanerkar, who was enthralled after reading Mirza's book, says,
“Translating this book was a big challenge as it required understanding of international politics, of several ideologies, subjects like economics, philosophy, orient culture, history, trends in literature… to theatre, film-making, scripting to Beatles music. But these had been subjects of my interest too and so I decided to approach Mirza to seek his permission for translating the book.”
But, before getting in touch with Mirza, Champanerkar debated with himself if he had understood Mirza's intention and reason behind penning that letter.
“Mirza has interwoven other forms of literature like a novel, a fairy tale, an autobiography, a social essay, musings on culture and politics, a travelogue, character sketches, film script and created a literary work, which defies conventional classification. It's a collage of incidents from his and his parents’ lives, historical events, Indian politics, stories of Mulla Nasruddin, poetry of Mirza Ghalib, works of Sufi saints, and poet saints like Namdev and many more. So it was important to co-relate the narrative formats. Once I was sure I could do that, I wrote to Mirza,” says Champanerkar.
Mirza had liberally used Urdu and Pashto in his work, so Champanerkar had to work on
translating and then confirming from experts if the usage was correct.
“The task before me,” says Champanerkar, “was to maintain the tone - one of respect, what they call tehzeeb, in Marathi. I also experimented with Pashto and Urdu words .. to give semblance..particularly in conversations of rickshaw pullers and goons.. to retain the original flavour of the language.”
The importance of translated works is that it widens the reach of the author's thoughts and possibly helps the readers to identify the commonalities between their world and that of the others. If the translator succeeds in achieving this, then the purpose is served.