Which language do you dream in?

Much of the rich literary traditions in our country are only available to us through translations... While most of us are bi- or tri- lingual, speaking a language passably and reading its literature are different skills, and the default option of accessing everything in English is too easy to avoid.

Katha is an organization that has tried hard to address this problem, and has had some remarkable successes along the way. Geetha Dharmarajan, who set up this very unusual NGO in Delhi many years ago, with the very unusual idea, of translating directly from one Indian language to another, instead of using English as the link language always... The idea is not so simple to implement: how many people speak both Oriya and Gujarati fluently, and how many of them would be willing (or able!) to translate from one language to the other? For some pairs of languages, Katha has been able to find translators, but they have been most successful, not surprisingly, in translating into English.

Recently, they brought out two more of Krishna Sobti's novels. Sobti was the recipient of the First Katha Chudamani Award, "instituted to honour a writer for work of exceptional merit, notwithstanding the corpus of works". As my erstwhile colleague at JNU, Namvar Singh said, "Sobti is a writer of the first rank. It's a pity she is not known outside the Hindi world."

Katha has done something to change that. Ai ladki (Listen, Girl!), Mitro Marjani (To Hell with you, Mitro), Dar se bichudi (Memory's daughter) and Dil-o-danish (The Heart has its reasons) are all available in translation, into English.