South Asian Literature in Translation: Krishnayan

Krishnayan by Kaajal Oza Vaidya; translated from Gujarati to English by Subha Pande

Publication date: January 2021
Publisher: Amazon Westland (EKA Editions); India

1) Tell us about this book and its original author.

SP: Krishnayan, first published in 2006, is a cult classic by Kaajal Oza Vaidya that has sold over 300,000 copies to date and has been translated into five Indian languages.  It tells the story of Krishna’s lifetime on this earth as a mortal. It is primarily focused on his relationships with the four important women in his life: Radha, Rukmini, Satyabhama, and Draupadi. It begins with Krishna lying under the Aswattha tree, fatally wounded and counting his last moments. It explores all the questions that plague his mind in those moments, his whole life flashing before his eyes. Despite his pain and agony, he ponders about all the incidents that have occurred in his eventful life and his relationships with Radha, his lover; Rukmini and Satyabhama, his wives; and Draupadi, his sakhi or friend. Each relationship has been extremely intense and intimate but unique in its own way. These are the only people with the power to captivate him and make him linger before casting off his mortal body. Does he help them free themselves from his bonds or do they help him liberate himself?  The book is a smooth-flowing tale that flits between past and present and through important events and conversations, delving deep into these distinctive and intense bonds.

2) Why were you drawn to choose the book for translation?

SP: I have always been fascinated by Krishna and have read a lot about him in our mythological texts and, of course, the Bhagwad Gita. I had read Krishnayan in Gujarati and loved it. It is a portrayal of Krishna as a lover, a husband, and a friend who goes through all the human emotions. It explores Krishna and his relationships and brings out his unconditional love, detachment, and complete involvement in every aspect of his life. For him, life is a celebration, to be experienced to the full without attachment. I was intrigued by the flow of the book and its straight-from-the-heart style.

3) What were the key challenges and surprises for you during the translation process/journey?

SP: Krishnayan was a real challenge to translate because it is a very emotionally moving book with a lot of self-introspection by all the characters. Despite the language being simple and colloquial, there are a lot of Sanskrit verses too. There are several Hindu terms from Indian mythology that are always challenging and difficult to translate. For instance, the words ‘shraddha’, ‘poornatva’, ‘dev’, ‘sakha’, ‘tilak’, and ‘arti’ have no appropriate words in English. Also, to get the same intensity of emotion expressed in the original Gujarati carried over into English was a tough ask. But it was a pleasurable challenge and I enjoyed working on the book.

4) What’s one thing you wish readers knew or appreciated more about this book?

SP: The book is scheduled to be released in January 2021 by Eka Westland. The English translation was announced at the Gujarat Literature festival at Ahmedabad in December 2019.

5) What’s your next translation project that we can look forward to?

SP: My next is the English translation of Girish Kuber’s Marathi bestseller, Yuddha Jeevanche, which is a historical account of biological and chemical warfare; to be published by HarperCollins India. It is very relevant in the present Covid times as it also brings to light the commercialization of modern medicine and the negative aspects of the global pharmaceutical industry. I am also translating a collection of Tamil short stories by the legendary Tamil author, Sivasankari.

Author Bio: Kaajal Oza Vaidya is a prolific writer, orator, actor, model, teacher, and social worker. Her columns are widely read amongst Gujarati readers. Her work explores the untold/unheard stories of youth and women caught in various crossfires with family, tradition, race, class, gender, culture, and the politics of living in today’s challenging postcolonial societies. In a short span of 12 years, she has written 80 books, including a gamut of novels, short stories, translations, essays, plays, and a collection of poems. Her works have been translated into more than five languages, including English, and published in multiple editions. She has traveled across the globe for speaking engagements. [Image Source: Subha Pande]

Translator Bio: Subha Pande has translated Kavita Kane’s bestsellers, Sita’s Sister (Rupa Books) and Fisher Queen’s Dynasty (Yatra Books), from English into Hindi. Her English translation of Kaajal Oza Vaidya’s Gujarati classic, Krishnayan, is being published by Amazon Westland in January 2021.  Five of her English translations of the iconic Tamil author Sivasankari’s novellas have been published as eBooks by Subha Pande is a corporate soft skills training consultant based in Vadodara, Gujarat, India. She holds a Master’s degree in Pharmacy and worked as a Professor of Analytical Chemistry for a decade in Bangalore. She is fluent in six Indian languages. (Image Source: Subha Pande)

Subha Pande, the literary translator (left) with Kaajal Oza Vaidya, the author (center); Image Source: Subha Pande

Jenny Bhatt is a writer, literary translator, and book critic. She is the host of the Desi Books podcast. Her story collection, Each of Us Killers, and her literary translation, Ratno Dholi: The Best Stories of Dhumketu, were out in 2020. Her writing has appeared in various venues in the US, UK, and India, including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, NPR, BBC Culture, Literary Hub, Longreads, Poets & Writers, and others. Having worked her way around India, England, Germany, Scotland, and various parts of the US, she now lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

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