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India, in translation

India has around 22 official languages, each with its own rich literary tradition. But how much of it is accessible to those who don’t know these languages? Not at all.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2009 22:51 IST
M R Venkatesh

India has around 22 official languages, each with its own rich literary tradition. But how much of it is accessible to those who don’t know these languages?

Not at all.

But now, English readers at least will be able to read the best of regional literature, thanks to ‘Knit India Through Literature’. A labour of love by well-known Tamil writer Sivasankari, four books have been published under the project — one each for the literatures of the east, west, south and north, covering all 18 languages of the Eighth Schedule and nearly a hundred odd writers.

The volume on north-Indian literature, the concluding one in the series, was released in Chennai on June 16 and covers everyone from the 14th century Kashmiri mystic and woman poet Lal Ded, to Gurdial Singh and Ajeet Caur (Punjabi); Gopi Chand Narang, Qurratulain Hyder, Balraj Komal (Urdu); Nirmal Verma, Krishna Sobti and Kamleshwar (Hindi). Even Sanskrit finds a place through the writings of Rajendra Mishra.

The stories, poems and novellas are interspersed with conversations and articles by scholars. “I have tried to introduce contemporary Indians to Indians,” says Sivasankari who travelled the length and breadth of India to meet and interview leading writers and critics.

Up next on her horizon are translations into regional languages, so that this wealth of vernacular literature is accessible to non-English readers also. Then there’s a plan to extend the series to all the new languages added to the Eighth Schedule.

“As a political entity, India needs a strong sense of cultural integration and ‘Knit India’ will contribute towards that,” says Agrahara Krishnamurthy, the Sahitya Akademi secretary. Very true.