NAW Interview with Vishes Kothari

A financial consultant by profession, Vishes Kothari has a keen interest in the oral and musical traditions of Rajasthan. He 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.

Timeless Tales from Marwar gives a new lease of life to his folk tales. It is a hand-picked compilation from the much-celebrated Batan ri Phulwari–‘Garden of Tales’–a fourteen-volume collection written over a span of nearly fifty years. Vijayadan Detha immortalized oral folktales and stories by writing them. 

Retold in Detha’s magical narrative style complete with imagery, this selection offers some of the oldest and most popular fables from the Thar Desert region. Discover tales of handsome rajkanwars, evil witches, exploitative thakars, miserly seths, clever insects, benevolent snakes and more. Vishes Kothari’s vivid English translation introduces one of the most venerated figures in Rajasthani folk culture to a wider audience.

Vishes Kothari

NAW- What piqued your interest in Rajasthani folk tales? How did you select this work for translation? Why did you decide to translate these works?

Detha returned to his village, Borunda in 1959 and began collecting folk stories from the common folk of his village and primarily from women. He used these folk tales as the form and medium of his literary expression by crafting them into stories and novels.

The end result is the 14 volume Bataan ri Phulwari, published over five decades. Not only is this collection a goldmine of the rich but fragile oral traditions of Rajasthan, it is also probably the most important and defining work of 20th century Rajasthani prose.

So Detha’s work is itself fairly well known among people who have an interest in the intangible heritage of the state. I’d had the books for a while, but the idea of translating these stories was suggested to me while I was teaching at Ashoka University.

NAW- How difficult is it for a translator to protect the original voice of the author while also ensuring that it is simple for the reader?

I tried to achieve it by conserving the orality in Detha’s prose, and by giving the reader of the English translation as much of a sense of the original Rajasthani as I could. I used some transliteration, original Rajasthani words among other devices….

NAW- What do you do if you do not understand a term during the translation process? Do you seek expert help or research on your own? How does the process work?

The Rajasthani Sabad Kos which is an 11 volume comprehensive dictionary and thesaurus of the Rajasthani language. This is an invaluable resource.

If I could not find something in the Sabad Kos, I turned to people around me—particularly older people. I was able to find the meanings of many terms/sayings/words by consulting such ‘oral archives’.

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do in your other life (the one that pays the bills)?

I am from Rajasthan. I live and work in Kolkata now. I work as a financial consultant.

NAW- Can you tell us about your upcoming works?

I am working on a further set of translations. It is tentatively titled The Garden of Tales- The Best of Vijdaydan Detha and is being published by HarperCollins. It should be out next year.

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