You must want to tell the story again; that's the only reason to translate
Jerry Pinto Author, Translator (Cobalt Blue)
1. What challenges were unique to working on this translation as opposed to writing a novel like Em and the Big Hoom?
The challenge with a novel is that you’re in charge of everything that happens. The delight of a translation is that, almost, all the work of invention has been done for you. Now you simply have to reinvent it. That can be tricky because you're not just shifting a word, you’re relocating a story into a new culture. This was a family quite unlike the Mendeses; the Joshis of Cobalt Blue do not seem to communicate with each other. And they pay the price for their silence, a terrible price. And yet, the total sundering of the family seems to be the cost that both the Joshi siblings pay for with their new lives: their worlds are
reinvented and re-imagined by their association with a young man who comes as a paying guest.
2. In your author’s note, you’ve mentioned about instances in the translation where you have retained the original Marathi word to retain the flavour; how did you negotiate taking this call throughout the book?
I think I retained this where I thought the word was self-explanatory. In almost every reading act, we work with some words that we don’t quite know or words that we half-know but guess. I assumed that my readers would make their way through the book, and pick up cues and clues along the way, just as I have always done. When I read a book set in the Yiddish culture, I don’t quite know what a nebbish is but I guess.
3. You were dealing with a controversial story that had created ripples when published in Marathi; was that on your mind when you began to translate it?
No, not at all. I was drawn to the novel for its peculiar qualities. Sachin Kundalkar’s story has an odd symmetry and a dizzying asymmetry. It works with the notion of real estate: what does an empty room mean in a home? It plays with the hypocrisies of the middle class: the daughter may not be allowed to visit the young boarder in his room but the son will because the idea that the young man may be gay has not crossed his parents’ mind. You must want to tell the story again; that’s the only reason to translate.
Cobalt Blue, Sachin Kundalkar, Translated by Jerry Pinto, Penguin Books, Rs 399. Available at leading bookstores