The launch of Hridayesh Joshi’s Hindi version of Bill Aitken’s Footloose in the Himalaya in New Delhi turned out to be a masterclass in the act of translation.
‘Books are not written by writers, they get themselves written, books are not translated, they find translators.’ This saying was not by any poet or writer, but by the translator Joshi. The book in Hindi is named Aitken Ka Himalaya.
In the seminar hall on top of Delhi journalists’ watering hole, the Press Club of India, it was not an author launching his book, but a translator opening the pages of his first translated book.
Delhi University professor Manisha Taneja opened the session by asking if Joshi had done any research for the book.
What Joshi said in response cracked up the hall full of journalists. He said the only research he did was on Aitken’s English because his English is very difficult.
“This book is very close to my heart. Many emotions are attached to this book, which teaches me that success is not everything in life,” he said.
Joshi was careful not to romanticise the mountains in his talk. “It is a lot of fun to visit the Himalayas or mountains, but there are many problems related to life there,” he said.
‘People like mountains and it always attracts them and many times people buy houses on the mountains. But when they stay there for a long time and know the problem, they leave the place,” he added.
The book, he said, is not only about the beauty of the mountains or Himalayas but also about the problems related to living there. The book breaks many illusions.
What was really surprising is that Aitken played a curious role in the translation process. Hridayesh said that Aitken has removed some lines from the book during translation because he said ‘if English readers can’t understand my writing, how will Hindi readers understand it’.
Joshi said the book shows how we always remember only the mountaineers who reach the top but never recognise the person behind the mission. “We know Avtar Singh Cheema was the first person from India who climbed Everest but we don’t know that Mohan Singh Kohli was his leader. I learnt such things from the book,” he said.
Joshi paid particular attention to how the Himalayas looked back then, in the 1960s and 1970s when Atkins lived in Himalayan ashrams.
Joshi said that people consider the language of his translation as “very complex and difficult”. “But I did not want to make the translation cheap by using easy and colloquial language, so I have taken care of its language.”
When Joshi was asked by the panel why he chose to translate, he said in a lighter vein that “translation is my source of income and translation’s money is much more than anything else”.
He also said that if there were no translations, we would never have been able to read books written in other languages or what went on in other countries.
‘I will read this book again. Reading this book opens many doors. The author’s knowledge and writing is very impressive. Aitken doesn’t want anything from life which always attracts me,” Joshi said, ending his talk.
(Edited by Prashant)