A tete-a-tete with eminent translators of Hindi, Urdu literature in Kolkata Litfest

Asha Bajaj
6 min readFeb 6
From left Baran Farooqi, Daisy Rockwell, Poonam Saxena and conversationalist Yatish Kumar at a discussion with the eminent translators of Hindi and Urdu literature into English at the Tata Steel Literary Meet 2023 in Kolkata

IBNS: Author, administrative officer, litterateur and conversationalist, Yatish Kumar, conducted an hour-long lively discussion on translating from Hindi and Urdu to English with Daisy Rockwell, Baran Farooqi and Poonam Saxena during the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Festival 2023 at the lawns of the iconic Victoria Memorial, Kolkata.

Excerpts of the conversation…

Q: Yatish Kumar: In India, if we leave aside the religious works like Ramayan, Mahabharata and Geeta, there has been very little translation of Hindi literature into other languages, whereas there has been a lot of translation of works of other languages into Hindi. So what do you feel about this and what could be the reason for this?

Poonam Saxena: Honestly, I don’t really know the reason. Translation itself is becoming more visible. There are more and more translations happening now because of the interest from publishers. For a long time there was no interest in publishing Hindi literary works into English. Everybody thought nobody wanted to buy translated works as these were very boring. There was a kind of a mental block. But ever since there has been an interest in translations there has been a lot of work from Bengali and Malayalam and is getting better for Hindi.

Daisy Rockwell: It is because the publishers don’t have a plan and they don’t choose a particular work. It is just us translators who fall in love with a book and make a sample and submit it to the publishers. So all that gets published is the whims of the translators, the publishers don’t take any initiative.

From left M K Singh, Baran Farooqi, Jawed Akhtar, Daisy Rockwell, Rachana Yadav, Poonam Saxena and Yatish Kumar at the Tata Steel Literary Meet 2023 panel discussion — Dhwani Aur Goonj Se Resonance Tak — on translators and translations of Hindi and Urdu literature into English.

Baran Farooqi: My experience is somewhat different, being in Uttar Pradesh more than 80% of the people understood and wanted Hindi only. So maybe they, the people I worked with, never…

Asha Bajaj

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