It’s a day away from the start of the five-day Jaipur Literature Festival, but the bookish kind gathered here for the Big Ticket event are still talking about another “inauguration” that took place on Monday.
Just when everyone thought that a translators’ meet would be the last place where a politician would barge in, there was a Chief Minister bringing the session to a screeching halt.
As Malayali poet and translator K. Sachithanandan was launching forth on the politics of translation and “hegemonic languages” during the first day of the two-day “Siyasi Translating Bharat” meet in Jaipur, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje walked in with drums announcing her arrival into the Diggi Palace hall and drowning out the panelists.
It was bad enough that Raje was late and the meet started without the chief guest. But what followed took the cake. The panelists on the stage – moderator and translator Gillian Wright, playwright Mahesh Dattani, French translators Dominique Vitalyos and Annie Montaut, and Sachithanandan – were taken aback when Raje with her retinue arrived midway into the session.
Apologising for her delay, she announced how grateful she was for being invited and spoke about how it was ‘Translating Bharat’ Director Namita Gokhale, whose insistence that she should “broaden her mind” that made her drop by during a busy Budget schedule. As the session, ‘Shades of India’, a lively discussion on ‘what it means to translate, to be translated, and how to go about translating’, was made to disappear before the packed audience, Raje talked about her discovery of a “new genre: the graphic novel”.
“When someone suggested that I read a graphic novel, I was thinking, ‘Oh dear, do I have to go back to the days of Tintin and Asterix comics?’ Now I’m completely hooked on to the book, <Epileptic> by (French graphic novelist) David B.”
With a welcome speech for the unwelcome guest and a chief ministerial push to the graphics novel genre out of the way, the session was ended with blistering quickness. A Mizo music programme was brought forward for the benefit of Raje, which she left midway. No one returned to the unfinished translators’ session. “It is a bit strange,” said a panelist shrugging her shoulders before adding, “It’s weird!”.
Fortunately, the day had started without any VVIP presence, and with a Khasi folktale retold in English by Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih, along with a Khasi dirge astoundingly sung by Evalary Khriem. Considering that those who stayed back for subsequent ‘Translating Bharat’ sessions were genuinely interested in what the translators, authors and publishers had to say, there were no further ‘disruptions’ on Tuesday.