Bringing regional oral folk tales to wider audience!
Timeless Tales from Marwar is a handpicked collection of folk tales, translated from Rajasthani to English by Vishes Kothari. This is a tribute to Detha’s rich legacy and is a collector’s edition for all ages.
Padma Shri awardee Vijaydan Detha devoted his life to collecting and re-writing Rajasthan’s vast reservoir of oral traditions. His 14 volume Batan ri Phulwari is the outcome of this project spanning five decades. Giving a new lease of life to his writings, Timeless Tales from Marwar is a handpicked collection of folk tales from this timeless classic, translated by Vishes Kothari. His vivid English translation introduces one of the most venerated figures in Rajasthan to a wider audience. This tribute to Detha’s rich legacy is a collector’s edition for all ages.
A financial consultant by profession, Vishes Kothari completed his masters in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, prior to which he studied at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and King’s College, London. He has been associated with UNESCO-Sahapedia on projects focussed on the musical traditions of women in Rajasthan, and as a language expert with the Jaipur Virasat Foundation.
Here, he shares more about this project.
AABP: What inspired you to translate the work of Vijaydan Detha’s celebrated Batan ri Phulwari?
Vishes: The fact that these are oral traditions. These traditions are fragile and with education moving away from families and communities to institutions and determined by standardized curricula, it is important to find other ways to transmit these traditions which have been passed down to us across ages.
Second, the fact that these oral traditions are in Rajasthani. Detha insisted on writing in his mother tongue. And I hope that this translation creates greater awareness about the vast corpus of written and oral literature of Rajasthan.
AABP: Vijaydan Detha masters content with orality and regionality. Please comment.
Vishes: Detha achieves a feeling of orality with a very light and free-flowing prose, almost as if there is actually a sutradhar who is narrating the stories…. Regionality of course becomes a question only when one is translating into English.
AABP: What factors did you keep in mind while translating to keep the soul of the book alive for the reader.
Vishes: The hardest part of translating a book is to create a sense of cultural context. I have tried to create a sense of the region these stories come from, and at the same time, have tried to preserve the orality in Detha’s prose. I tried to maintain as much fidelity to the book as I could.
AABP: Share your experience with your publisher.
Vishes: The book is published by Puffin Classics, Penguin Random House. I have used footnotes, epigraphs, Rajasthani words, transliteration etc. When I submitted my first draft, I had doubts about whether this would be accepted. However, my editor, Arpita Nath, was very receptive. I was pleasantly surprised.
AABP: What inspired you to be a translator?
Vishes: It came primarily from a native familiarity with Rajasthani and a native familiarity with these stories and their contexts. I had heard some of these stories as a child. So many of the characters were very relatable….So I felt these stories are also mine.
AABP: Share something about your passion for Folk tales.
Vishes: I have been interested in oral and folk traditions for some time now and have even done some projects related to the folk music traditions of my region. Folk tales hence became a very natural extension of this interest and involvement.
AABP: What next can the readers’ expect?
Vishes: Tentatively titled Garden of Tales- Best of Vijaydan Detha; this will be another set of translations of Vijaydan Detha’s vast collection of folk tales. This will be published by HarperCollins.