My friend Bharathi Kode recounts her experience of translating a book that aims to inspire the younger generation with a new set of role models: Meena
Everything starts with a dot. On a mid-summer day, I got a call from Reema Gupta, who is the co-lead of the Women’s Leadership and Excellence Initiative at Indian School of Business, asking if I could translate the book she had co-authored along with her two friends. The book “The Dot that Went for a Walk” was written in English by Reema and her two friends Sarada Akkineni and Lakshmi Nambiar who have made it a mission to create social change and empower young girls through inspirational stories. Inspired by the quote of artist Paul Klee “A line is a Dot that went for a walk”, the book was titled “The dot that went for a walk”. They wanted the book to be available in regional languages including Telugu.
She said they all were all first time writers and first time publishers. I said ‘And hence, you want a first time translator to do the translation?’ We laughed. And then I asked her how she how she had narrowed down to me as a potential translator. She said they had been searching for translators who are not only good at language but also somebody who shared their vision and would do the work with the same passion that they had. They approached a publishing house called Manchi Pustakam for suggestions, and the head of the publishing house had referred my name for this task. A dot connecting me to another dot J
The book features inspirational life stories of 51 Indian women. It starts with the story of Rani of Jhansi who fought the British, and ends with the story of Avani Chaturvedi, a MIG fighter pilot defending our country. Together they tell the story of the last 200 years of the country. The idea is that the young generation will connect with these role models, be inspired by them, think of career possibilities and fight harder against self-doubt.
I was excited and immediately said ‘yes’ without a second thought. In my area of work, I do interact with children and youth and I know how important it is to expose children to positive role models, especially in this digital age where children are exposed to lot of negative influences. I was not sure how much time and effort it would take for me to translate a book of about 150 pages. But still I committed, as I could see the influence that this book can have on the future of young children.
As a first time translator, it was quite exciting for me. I found translation as difficult as writing a book. At times I wanted to go beyond the ideas, thoughts and imagination of the author. But that was obviously not on. I found it also a great learning exercise. It improved my language skills in both English and Telugu. It helped me to get to know about some inspirational women whom I didn’t know about earlier. It took a lot of time, I had to put in so much effort. But it has been quite a satisfying journey.
The Telugu version was launched in November 2019 by the Missile Women of India Ms. Tessy Thomas, in Hyderabad.
The authors are going way beyond the printed word to get the message across effectively. They are organizing essay competitions, discussions around the book in the schools around Hyderabad to begin with. A content platform called ‘Dot Express’ is also being initiated where young generation can voice their opinions and interact with experts.
Even before it got published, sponsors came forward to distribute the book to 12000 children in govt. schools in Telangana. The journey of the dot has just begun. We have to see what patterns, masterpieces it will create in future.
Great job, Reema, Sarada, Lakshmi and Bharathi! We need many more books like this one!