Sahitya Sahawas is a housing colony that was built for writers in Bandra East in the late 1960’s. The colony has been home to poet Vinda Karandikar, writer and translator Gayatri Pagdi and, for many years, the young Sachin Tendulkar. Siddharth Pardhe, the son of a watchman and domestic help, grew up in a slum just outside the enclave but never felt left out. In his 2008 memoir Colony, Pardhe recounted growing up in the warm embrace of Sahitya Sahawas, where he found mentors, playmates and friends. The book was recently translated from Marathi by Ashlesha Athavale, a journalist and daughter of Sahitya Sahawas writers, Narayan and Anuradha Athavale. She spoke to Mrudula Andhare over phone and email. Edited excerpts:
What made you want to translate Siddharth Pardhe’s novel?
As mentioned in the book, Siddharth and his siblings grew up with us colony kids. All of us are very close to him [even though] he’s much older than my generation. Neither my parents nor the parents of any other child of Sahitya Sahawas told us to stay away from them. For us, they weren’t the children of the watchman and a maid. For us, each of them always was and still is, one of us. Where you live is special for you.
The fact that I know him and that I lived in the colony helped a lot. I also spent a lot of time with people in the colony, observing them. I felt that if this book comes in English, a lot more people will be able to read it. [Pardhe] also wanted it come out in Hindi and Gujarati.
How did you feel when you first read Siddharth’s novel?
I felt that it was unique. As a third person, if you read about a watchman’s son saying, “The colony did this for me,” it’s not just a story, it’s a miracle. …. [Also] my sister and I grew up surrounded by authors, journalists, painters, actors, a host of creative people from various fields. Having grown up in this atmosphere, it took me many years to realize that there are some people in this world who cannot write.
The English used in the book is very straightforward.
Certain sentences were very simple, so I had to change them a bit. But about 70 percent of it I’ve tried to keep untouched. Also I wanted to get as close to the original style of the author. I feel you have to be very simple in your writing.
By Mrudula Andhare on June 22 2012 6.24am