BY ANINDITA DAS
HarperCollins Publishers India and Not Just Books had organised a book release event on Saturday evening, June 20 at Udara in Uzan Bazar, Guwahati. It was in the presence of many prominent figures from literary and academic field that the two books Written in Tears and The Water Spirit and Other Stories were released by noted academician, folklorist, singer, lyricist and former President of Assam Sahitya Sabha Dr. Birendranath Dutta. Well-known writers of Assam Dhrubojyoti Hazarika, Mitra Phukan, Indrani Raimedhi, Mousumi Kandali, Swapnil Bharali along with a host of distinguished guests graced the occasion. Both the books released are English translations of the original works by Arupa Patangia Kalita and Imran Hussain. The show got lively with Bibhash Choudhury, a renowned critic, author and Professor of English, Gauhati University moderating it. Choudhury expressed that it was good to have both the writers and the translators together in the same platform to share their experiences of writing and translating the works with the audience. Written in Tears is the translated collection of Arupa Patangia Kalita’s short stories and The Water Spirit and Other Stories include the English translation of Imran Hussain’s short stories that were being released.
Congratulating the writers, translators, Publishers and Not Just Books, Dr. Dutta said “It is a momentous event in the history of English translation. It is good that the publishers are intensifying the activities”. Thanking HarperCollins and her translator Ranjita Biswas, Arupa Patangia Kalita mentioned “I wrote what I saw – birds, trees, river, men, the history behind etc., and I realise that some negative words such as rape and murder become a part of my writing, which could not be avoided. Those who work with pen, even without writing on conflict situation, confront a huge barrier which they can’t cross. If not translated, our works can’t be read outside.” She expressed her delight over the fact that her translated works have been included in the curriculum of many foreign universities and are highly acclaimed. She conveyed her gratitude to her translator Ranjita Biswas who had put in a lot of effort to keep intact the essence of her writings. She further remarked “It is good news that the publishers from outside is getting interested in North-East literature. It is a critical period as writing reflects pain and sorrow which have been able to touch many readers, and HarperCollins has recognised that.” She then read out a passage from one of her story, on which Bibhash Choudhury remarked that there is nothing like reading words from one’s own writing. He then requested Ranjita Biswas to read out the same passage that she has translated. Biswas noted “It is good to translate Patangia’s stories as they have familiarised me with the culture and tradition of the different ethnic people of North-East. It is strange that though we live together, we hardly know about them, or perhaps we do not want to know. She has been writing about the prevailing unrest in Assam and gender related issues. It has been great experience to translate her stories”.
Imran Hussain rendered a wonderful account of his experiences which he has woven in the fabric of his stories. He also said that it is his quest for self identity that makes him write. He said “I believe there should be a great affinity between the author and the translator. I thank my translator Mitali Goswami as she is making my stories spread in the nook and corner of the world. We live differently in North-East and thus writing becomes a strong medium through which this fact can be made known to the greater world. I have tried to understand people in my own way and I write from my experience. We should try to grab hold of the experience which we do not have ourselves through the power of our imagination. Our job is not to write history, but to grasp the reality and say it in a different way with the words which can make readers think. It is the language which speaks, not the author.” He further attributed his knack of storytelling to Navakanta Baruah, who has always been a great inspiration for him. Hussains’s translator Mitali Goswami also shared her experience of translating his stories, which according to her was amazing.
The event concluded with an interactive session between the audience and the authors and translators, highlighting the challenging nature of translation which calls for keeping intact the essence of the original writing. Many local words are retained in the translated versions, sometimes even without notes with the view that the readers while getting familiarised with those shall come to terms with the tradition associated with it. It is indeed a great accomplishment that Assamese literature is gaining recognition in the global sphere through translation and the publishers such as HarperCollins endeavouring to draw attention to Assam as well as the other North-East regions across the globe. The event came to an end with the vote of thanks by Sanchit Kumar, the proprietor of Not Just Books.