Face to Face with Mr. Gautam Roy, A translator of the famous Hindi Novel "Kashmir 370 KM"

Gautam Roy

Q – Tell us something about your academic and professional background. 

A - I did a master's in Statistics from Lucknow University. Thereafter I joined Bharat Press Agency as a sub-editor. From 1987 to 1997 I worked as a chief foreign correspondent and then editor-in-chief of an International Press agency named INTERCO PRESS AGENCY INC, USA. During this period many of my articles were published in national and international publications, which got high acclamations. I worked as managing editor of Bharat Press Agency. Plays written by me titled URVASHI, AVAHAN, SHYAMA (Translation), HUKKUDU KA KHAZANA, etc. brought me immense recognition. I translated Ayn Rand’s “NIGHT OF 16TH JANUARY” into Hindi which is highly praised. 

Q – What attracts you to the role of a translator?

A – The role and responsibility of the translator are immense. The translator not only has to translate the language of the original script but has to maintain the rhythm of emotions, equations of the situations described, philosophy, and message of the theme just as in the original text.  At that point, the translator doesn’t have the liberty to do something of his own. He is bounded by the thought process and writing of the original creation. He is bound to maintain the flow, depth, and shades of emotions and passion of the characters while translating the lines and verses into another language. 

Q- Is Cultural fluency always important while translating?

A – Yes, I think we must understand the culture behind the language we are translating, as this is the only way to know the significance and implicit meaning of a text. Certain proverbs might not carry over well to English otherwise could even be words we have no direct equivalent for. The translation isn’t just about knowing the text, it is about understanding and conveying the exact meaning to others.

Q- What inspired you to translate “KASHMIR 370 KILOMETRES”, which is a Hindi novel, into English titled “Echoes of the Getaway”?

Dr. Ravindra Prabhat & Mr. Gautam Roy

A – In the year 2019, the author of “Kashmir 370 Kilometres” Dr. Ravinder Prabhat gave me the Hindi book for English translation. I was immediately attracted by the title of the novel because the novel saw the day of light at a crucial juncture of Indian history when the Govt. of India by taking a benchmark decision abolished article 370 and divided the whole state of Jammu & Kashmir into 2 Union Territories. This bold historic decision can be termed a great turn in contemporary Indian history. 

After going through the book, I found the content very strong, striking, and thoughtful. Every character in the narrative was powerful and complex. Every character was an important part of the narrative and had a part to contribute to the main text of the novel.

The author instead of focusing on the political aspects of the crises tells the story of the common men, who had gone through inhuman sufferings, sometimes due to partition and sometimes due to communal and Jihadi fanaticism. The novel, on one hand, reveals the secrets of state-sponsored terrorism and on the other hand, presents a broad picture of the sufferings of Kashmiri pundits in the context of the political and social intricacies of Kashmir. Basically, the human aspect of the narrative inspired me for this powerful project. 

Q- How important is impartiality while translating?

A - I believe it’s always important to remain impartial while translating. The translator has to make communication easier for everyone and he can only do this by being as accurate as possible while translating what the character in the novel says. Some situations might involve giving just the gist of a massage for convenience but it’s always important to preserve meaning.   

Q- Tell us something about “ECHOES OF THE GETAWAY”?

A – Tale of the elopement of a Kashmiri pandit family from Kashmir and with this entwined the subplots of deterioration and disintegration of the social fabric of Kashmiri society with time, insights of golden and dark chapters of the ancient and contemporary social, political, and cultural history of the valley, terrorism, conspiracies, manipulation and evil design of a foreign state to destabilize the whole region and greed for power and money of the unscrupulous, corrupt leaders combinedly form a powerful narrative of the novel titled “ECHOES OF THE GATEWAY”. Among all the complex situation this novel focus on Sufism also, the oldest rawayat of the vale, as a ray of hope for the re-establishment of the old glory and pride of Kashmir. 

Q- The novel starts with a discussion and debate between three journalists, who has come to Kashmir to report about the current situations that developed after the removal of article 370 from the state, how you will define this start of the novel?

A - Oh Yes, It was a very creative idea to start a novel with the current situations of the main problem and then go for the main narrative. All three journalists were having different perceptions of Kashmiri problems. During the discussion they express their points of view which clearly show their different ideological inclinations but apart of their ideological stands they all were deeply concerned with the human tragedy. Though one was rightist and the other was leftist but they all were impacted by the social, political, and humanitarian crises of the Kashmiri tragedy. In this way, the writer tried to create a web in which readers of different ideologies can get involved with the main theme of the narrative. Though any crises can be seen through the prism of different ideologies the basic factors remain the same and that is human angle of the problem, where common men are forced to go through inhuman tortures and face obnoxious situations. 

Q- How you will describe Mr. Kaul’s role in the main narrative?

A - The novel is the story of the gateway of Mr. Kaul’s family from Kashmir so the main plot and subplots revolve around Mr. Kaul’s hard and sweet experiences of life which depict the social, political, and religious crises of the state.

Q- Tell us something about the style of the novel and what will be the influence of the narrative on readers?

A – This novel is written in anecdote style and proves very interesting and informative for the readers. Without any prejudice or biased approach Dr. Prabhat has written on a vivid and controversial subject very boldly and has provided details and vital information regarding Kashmir and Kashmiriyat in a simple and candid way.

This fact cannot be ignored that a whole generation that witnessed the Kashmiri problem from the beginning has almost vanished or is on the way to its end but for the present generation this novel will give them an opportunity to get acquainted with the insights and problems of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. 

Q- What do you have to say about the structural part of the plot and characters of the novel?

A – Though the characters and incidents of the main plot are fictitious but the narrative is based on the real facts of Kashmir. That is the very reason why the novel presents a human story of the struggle for existence in any adverse situation. The writer has handled the sensitive and powerful subject in a balanced way for which the narrative touches the inner cord and sensibilities of the readers.

Q- How you will describe Dr. Prabhat’s approach toward a complex subject like Kashmir?

A – The novel describes the plights of the pundits living in the paradise of the earth and how they were forced to a gateway from Kashmir. The writer has written boldly on communal fanaticism and its evil effects on the lives of laymen. Giving references to history the writer has tried to prove his point of view and how communal discrimination and hatred developed in the society of the valley. On one hand, the novel describes the pains of the common public during partition, and on the other hand, it focuses on the agonies of the Kashmiri Pandits of the vale for their exodus from their land of ancestors forever.

Q- Tell us something about your experience while translating the Hindi novel into English.

A – Translating “Kashmir 370 Kilometre” has been a deeply fulfilling experience for me because in this creation the whole problem of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat has been seen through the eyes of common men, vulnerable for exploitation by any ruler or by any destructive or insurgent force. I felt the whole method of storytelling was very interesting because, with the main plot, the writer has parallelly infused many interesting subplots focusing on subjects like the history, culture, social science, religion, and cuisine of Kashmir. 

Q- Tell us something about your future projects.

A - At present, I am translating the sequel of Kashmir 370 Kilometres titled “PRATISHUTI” written by Dr. Ravindra Prabhat. It’s a best seller and the title of the English version is “STINGS OF THE EXODUS”. This novel is based on international refugee and immigration problems. I hope this novel will also prove very interesting and informative for the readers.      

  Q- At last what do you think are the most powerful lines of “ECHOES OF THE GETAWAY”, which can be said a complete message in itself?

A – The concluding lines of “ECHOES OF THE GETAWAY” are very powerful and a particular line is a complete message and statement in itself. The lines are as follows – 

“Journalist Babu, why is only Kashmir the situation of the whole country is deteriorating these days. Hindus have become too much Hindu while the Muslims have become too much Muslim.”

-By Nazia Rizvi

E-13, 9PL, London, United Kingdom.


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