Creating a Global language bridge via India:

Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award

Arun Maheshwari, Chairman, Vani Foundation and Managing Director, Vani Prakashan Group, shares why translations are important to bridge the continental and monumental gaps.


Translation is a great leveler. From breaking hegemony of established languages to making knowledge available to those who are only dependent on the so-called mainstream languages, creating subtexts of contexts to showing the contexts how they can become more inclusive — translation does it all. In pre-colonial times, the concept of translation in the Indian subcontinent was understood mainly in terms of its function of empowering the so-called vernaculars that were entirely dependent upon the ‘deba-bhasha’ Sanskrit for absorption and dissemination of knowledge. The colonial rule, however, thought of translation as a tool to decode the colonized. The translation as an academic exercise has taken a new form in the post-independence India. It is not only a bridge between the languages in the linguistic jungle that the sub-continent is, but is also the ship which connects various continents.

Namita Gokhale

Translators: true cultural ambassadors

In this direction, the translators are the heroes who work selflessly to bridge the continental and monumental gaps, create friendships and become the true cultural ambassadors between two or more linguistic and literary cultures. In India, we celebrate them and their passion on various platforms. The Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award is one of the platforms that is found to not only to create awareness about the books and their translations in Indian languages, but majorly about the translators who add the true music to literary exchanges.

The Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award…

It is indeed a pleasure and humbling that Padma Bhushan Gulzar (Dadasahab Phalke Award and the Academy Award Winning writer, film maker and lyricist), Sanjoy Roy (Teamwork Arts Pvt. Ltd), Namita Gokhale (Director of Zee Jaipur Literature Festival), Neeta Gupta (Codirector of Jaipur BookMark) and Sundeep Bhutoria (Chairman of Prabha Khaitan Foundation) have continued to lend their unconditional support to the award since its inception. The award honors translators of India who have consistently and qualitatively facilitated literary and linguistic exchange between at least two Indian languages. This award was deemed necessary in light of the lack of present initiatives to encourage direct exchange between Indian and international languages. It also aims at re-discovering and conceptualizing India’s rich history of linguistic and literary interchange by inspiring contemporary translators to carry this proud tradition into the present and project it into the future. The award especially favours translators who have produced a significant literary corpus over an extended period of time, and carries a monetary prize of one lakh rupees, in addition to public recognition.

Arun Maheshwari

The 2020 edition…

Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award will be in its fifth chapter in January 2020 at the Jaipur Book Mark. The award has been addressing diversity in Indian literary landscape right from its first year by highlighting the body of work of eminent Malayalam author and poet Attoor Ravi Varma (2015-16), Hindi and Maithili scholar and Professor of English literature Dr. Anamika (2016-17), Sindhi and Gujarati scholar and Professor of Translation Studies Prof. Rita Kothari (2017-18) and Scandinavian scholar and Hindi translator Teji Grover (2018-19).

The celebrated works…

Attoor Ravi Verma is one of the pioneers of modern Malayalam poetry, and is renowned for his pithy style that matches the intensity of his thought. Though he is well recognized as a poet, the consistent contribution he has been making to facilitate profound cultural exchanges between Tamil and Malayalam through his translations of works ranging from Tamil Sangham poets to young Tamil writers of today has not yet been quite known to the world, despite the awards that he has got from the Kerala Sahitya Akademi and the Kendra Sahitya Akademi. His remarkable felicity, versatility and sensitivity in dealing at once with ancient love poetry and radical contemporary voices in fiction, on the one hand, and the political relevance of his choices in translation on the other have made him emerge as a natural claimant of this award.

Sundeep Bhutoria

Prof. Rita Kothari has translated Gujarat’s first Dalit novel Angaliyat (The Stepchild, 2004) and her edited and translated compilation of Partition stories in Sindh, published as Unbordered Memories, are well acclaimed. Her recent translations include the novels of K.M.Munshi, and the memoir Agnipariksha, based on the 1969 riots of Ahmedabad. Besides many translations, edited volumes such as Chutnefying English: The Phenomenon of Hinglish and A Multilingual Nation, have made significant contributions to the field of language politics and translation. Dr. Anamika has published eight collections of poetry by various writers, including fiction and non-fiction works such as The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing, Girish Karnad’s drama Nagmandala, The Monkey Grammarian by Octovio Paz among other books of criticism.

Teji Grover served as President, Premchand Srijan Peeth, Ujjain (MP) in 1995-97. She has developed a well-researched repertoire of natural, eco-friendly colours while producing her own paintings since 2003. Winner of the S H Raza Award and Bharat Bhushan Agarwal Award for poetry, she is a widely anthologised poet in several Indian and foreign languages. She also received a National Cultural Fellowship for senior artists from the Indian government and a fellowship from Institute of Advanced Study, Nantes, France for 2016-17.

Neeta Gupta

Behind the scene…

“We want that the young readers of India and Indian diaspora to know what is happening in the Indian languages. The gap has to be filled,” believes one of the founders of the award Namita Gokhale whose towering figure as an author has inspired generations. The culturist and jury member Sundeep Bhutoria adds, “India symbolizes unity in diversity. Through the Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award, we try to set up interaction between not only the Indian languages, but also between Indian and international languages. This effort has to grow stronger each year.” “(VFDT Award) brings forth the importance of translations — from Indian to international languages. At the Jaipur Book Mark, we celebrate the translators each year,” remarks translation expert, editor and one of founding members of the award, Neeta Gupta, Founder of Bhartiya Bhasha Parishad and co-publisher of Yatra Books.

On Vani Foundation…

Vani Foundation was established in the year 2014 as a not-for-profit organisation that is dedicated to serve Indian languages and translation activities. We feel that the founding members poet and culturist Ashok Vajpayee and Maharaj Bimlendra Mohan Pratap Mishra have helped us sharpen our vision and mission from time to time.

(Translated from Hindi by Aditi M. Goyal)

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