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Ashoka and Zubaan announce partnership to translate books by women written in Indian languages

Termed as ‘Women Translating Women’, the project is being steered by women translators. A total of 12 books written across Indian languages are being translated into English. It is supported by the Susham Bedi Memorial Fund, the project is operating in two 12-month-long cycles

The Ashoka Centre for Translation has announced its publishing partnership with Zubaan Publishers for the Women Translating Women (WTW) project. The WTW project, which is supported by the Susham Bedi Memorial Fund, aims to share stories by women written across languages in India. The Ashoka Centre for Translation is commissioning a total of twelve books for translation over two 12-month-long cycles. The selected works would be translated into English by women translators, exploring the multiple spaces inhabited by women in diverse contexts.  

Some of the books to be published by Zubaan under the project include Guptodhon by Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay (translated from Bangla by Ipsa Samaddar), Karai Thedum Odangal by Ramachandran Usha (translated from Tamil by Krupa Ge), Navabhum Ki Ras Katha by Susham Bedi (translated from Hindi by Astri Ghosh), Ittehad by Guli Sadarangani (translated from Sindhi by Rita Kothari), and Razia Sajjad Zaheer’s short stories (translated from Urdu by Saba Bashir). 

The announcement came during the First Susham Bedi Memorial Lecture to mark the Hindi author and poet Susham Bedi’s third death anniversary on 20th March 2023. Bedi was also a professor of Hindi language and literature at the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University, New York. Professor Gabriela Nik. Ilieva, Clinical Professor & Director of the South Asian Language Programs at NYU, delivered the memorial lecture titled, ‘Good Girl! Bad Girl!’ The Emerging Voices in Susham Bedi’s Stories, honouring her life through a critical appreciation of her work. 

At the lecture, Susham Bedi’s family also echoed the late diasporic writer’s vision for promoting more and more literature from India, especially by women. Speaking about their support of this project by the Ashoka Centre for Translation, Purva Bedi, Susham Bedi’s daughter and an actress, emphasised the role of translation in allowing due global recognition of literature produced in non-English Indian languages.   

Co-director of the Ashoka Centre for Translation and Professor of English at Ashoka University, Rita Kothari, said at the occasion, “Women Translating Women is not simply a project; it is a movement to foreground the negotiation women do, to hear what others miss, and to affirm what they do speak. The acts of translation engulf both the writer and the translator, and there is something gendered in the act itself.” 

Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Ashoka University and Co-director at the Ashoka Centre for Translation, Arunava Sinha, said, “We hope and expect these books to become essential reading, and are grateful for the opportunity to take them to readers around the country and the world.”

The project was first inaugurated by the feminist author and publisher Urvashi Butalia on 14th August 2022. In her inaugural talk, she had focused on the significance of such a project and the necessity of promoting a variety of voices in literature. Speaking on the books and the partnership, Zubaan director Urvashi Butalia said, “We’re delighted to be partnering with Ashoka under the WTW project and look forward to continuing the important work of translating and bringing women’s multiple and diverse voices to public attention.”

Astri Ghosh, who is translating two of Susham Bedi’s novels under the aegis of this project, said, “Susham Bedi’s writings reflect the negotiations of identity a migrant faces in the meeting with a new world. After translating many male writers, I am delighted at this opportunity to look at the world from a woman’s point of view.” 

Speaking on the strategic partnerships that have nurtured this project, Neeta Gupta, who is helming this project on behalf of the Ashoka Centre for Translation, said, “We are thrilled to see it all come together—the diverse voices from across India, the talented translators, and an iconic publisher. I cannot think of a more suitable home for these incredible books. Also a big thank you to the Bedi family for their generous support.”

About Zubaan

Zubaan is a leading independent publishing house based in New Delhi with a strong academic and general list. It was set up in 2003 as an imprint of India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, and continues to publish books on, for, by, and about women in South Asia. Apart from publishing books, Zubaan Books also works on several projects related to women’s writing and gender issues. It has published several anthologies and research reports on women’s issues and has organised various literary events, workshops, and conferences. 

About Susham Bedi

Born in Delhi, Susham Bedi attended Delhi University and began working as an actor on Indian television in the late 1960s. She completed her PhD in Hindi drama from Panjab University in 1979 before migrating to New York in the same year. In New York, she continued her radio and television work as a contributor to BBC’s weekly program, Letters from Abroad, in which she discussed day-to-day issues about life in New York. Unlike other prominent Hindi American novelists writing in English, Bedi primarily wrote in Hindi about the experiences of the South Indian diaspora. She was honoured by Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan and Sahitya Academy, Delhi, for her contributions to the Hindi language and literature. She has been widely translated into English, French, Dutch and other languages by artists, academics, and students.

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