‘Your Smile’: Poetry Translation by Carol D’Souza

Your smile


Like a curtain rippling at the door

your smile


I step forward—

And your smile spreads

Like fresh pressed oil on water


In the morning

when no shadows form on the floor

it alights like sunshine in an egg

Springs back like an unlatched window

And like a small road, it falls in step

accompanying me for a long while


Your smile

falls like seeds into the soil

Jamun like eyes well up with relish

And look, colour blue—

my teeth.



तुम्हारी हँसी


दरवाज़े पर लहराते पर्दे जैसी

तुम्हारी हँसी


मैं बढ़ता क़दम—

और फैल जाती तुम्हारी हँसी

पानी पर कच्चे तेल की तरह


सुबह के समय

जब ज़मीन पर नहीं बनतीं परछाइयाँ

अण्डे में धूप—सी उतर आती

खिड़की के खुलने सी लपकती वापिस

और पगडण्डी—सी चलती

देर तक साथ


तुम्हारी हँसी

पृथ्वी पर बीज—सी झरती

जामुन जैसी आँखों में भर आता स्वाद

और नीले पड़ जाते देखो—

मेरे दाँत।



Translation from the Hindi to the English by Carol D’Souza

The Hindi poem by Sourav Roy

The poem is selected from Roy’s latest collection Kaal Baisakhi, Vani Prakashan, 2022, page 25.


Carol D’Souza lives in Chennai. A collation of her work can be found at linktr.ee/cblaizd. Her poetry in English has previously appeared in ASAP|art, The Sunflower Collective, Almost Island, EKL Review, Hakara, Indian Cultural Forum, voice & verse, the Economic and Political Weekly, and elsewhere. It is forthcoming in Qurbatein. Her translation of Uday Prakash and Amrita Pritam’s poetry from Hindi to English is forthcoming in the Red River Anthology of Twenty First Century Hindi Poets and Usawa Literary Review respectively.
Sourav Roy is a bilingual writer, poet, journalist, and translator. He currently works as a teacher, and has been a visiting faculty at Azim Premji University and NIFT Bengaluru in the past. He is also a core member of Anjuman, a literary club that promotes Hindi-Urdu literature in Bengaluru. A blogger since 2010, Sourav has worked as an Editor at YourStory Media in the past, where he wrote about India’s social sector. He continues to write regularly for Bengaluru Review and Deccan Herald newspaper. His published work includes Kaal Baisakhi, Yayavar (Collections of poems) Karnakavita (Editor: Anthology of Hindi-Urdu poetry from Bengaluru), Teen Natak by Abhishek Majumdar (Editor), Soho Mein Marx (Translator: 3 Plays by Howard Zinn), and Os Ki Prithvi (Translation of Japanese Haiku).

“All writing is essentially translation”: An interview with Maithreyi Karnoor

Maithreyi Karnoor writes in English and translates from Kannada. She has won the Kuvempu Bhasha Bharati prize for translation and was shortlist for the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize. She is a two-time finalist of the Montreal International Poetry Prize, and her poems are published in Poetry Review, PN Review, Poetry Wales, amongst others. She is the recipient of the 2022 Charles Wallace India Trust Fellowship for creative writing and translation at Literature Across Frontiers, University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Her novel Sylvia is published in India and the UK.

In this interview, she shares her thoughts on writing and translation with publisher Neeta Gupta. Neeta Gupta has been working towards creating publishing connectivities across different languages and cultures for over two decades. She is the co-Founder of the Publishers’ Exchange, a group of Indian Language Publishers formed during the Pandemic to facilitate a sharing of ideas and resources; and Executive Member, Ashoka Centre for Translation. She is also the chief editor of Anuvad, the Bhartiya Anuvad Parishad’s quarterly journal on translation. She was formerly the publisher at Yatra Books and is now the Publishing Director at Tethys Books. Neeta Gupta has edited a volume of essays on translating from and into Indian languages, titled, Translating Bharat, Reading India.

Let’s start with a question about all your literary lives—as a poet, translator, writer—and which hat is your favourite one to wear? 

I write poetry and fiction in English, and I translate literary works from Kannada. I don’t see them as separate and all three processes are largely intuitive. I think all writing is essentially translation—of abstract, amorphous thoughts into concrete words. And when I translate, I don’t focus on the meanings of individual words alone; I also look at the mood and the music and seek to recreate the gestalt of the text as a whole. So, vice versa, all translation, for me, is essentially writing.

How do you balance your work and literary pursuits? Does your writing and translation work pay the bills?

I don’t know of many English writers in India who make a living from their writing (I cannot speak for commercial writing—fiction or otherwise—of course). I don’t. I barely make a living even. It helps that I have no dependents. Although I’d love to live off my writing someday, I don’t want to count on it. I recently quit a job teaching creative writing in a design college and am living on my obscenely meagre savings. But I have no regrets. I think it’s ironic to spend all of one’s time teaching writing and not be able to actually write. My only method with writing is to not have a method. It is an intuitive process, and teaching it—which is essentially talking about it—was exhausting. The only principle I go by is ‘read well to write well,’ and I was weary of having to constantly unpack that in the classroom.

Perhaps because I am a translator, language and its magic hold me in their sway. I love a good story. I love a well-written story even more. I can read and reread a beautifully written sentence until the cows come home—and inversely (to borrow from Groucho Marx) I can look at the cows until a beautifully written sentence comes home. I am rather old-school in my art-for-arts’ sake inclinations. While messaging and subverting and that sort of thing is important, I prefer it to not dominate the narrative. Humour, wordplay, satire, cleverness (that does not take away from the gravity of the situation), wry acceptance, honest self-deprecation—these things are important for me in what I read and what I write.

I am not a student of literature in the traditional sense. And I’m glad about it—I think an academic relationship with literature would have killed its joy for me. Now, every story, every poem I read is a new discovery unbound by theoretical frameworks.

Who are the Kannada authors—past and present—that you like the most? 

I admire Bendre’s poetry—there is so much more than mere meaning in them. I don’t want to go through the bother of acquiring permission from his rather elusive estate, which is why I don’t publish my translations of his works. But working with them gives me great joy. Vasudhendra’s works offer a different kind of challenge in translation—the complex plotlines he weaves into rich tapestries require care and attention to be rendered in all their beauty into English.

Linguistic nuance and difference from the mainstream interests me. I admire Shrinivas Vaidya’s work for that reason. Translating his novel felt as natural and joyful as chatting with my mother owing to his easy and quirky use of the north Karnataka Kannada (which I refuse to call a dialect). I have had the urge to write in Kannada for some time now but have lacked the courage for it. But I made a beginning recently and it is scary to say the least. Vaidya passed on around the same time and the coincidence of the events makes me wonder if he has handed me the baton of our language.

Given the rise in interest in translations studies in universities like JNU, Ashoka, Jadavpur—what can we do to promote marginalised writers and translators and their works in mainstream discussions? I’m asking this because it seems to me as if Indian writers who write in English and those who write in the languages exist in two parallel universes.

It’s heartening to see increased academic interest in translation. Mainstream publishing is also looking more keenly at translation than before—and that is definitely a good beginning in the endeavour to subvert some of the hegemony of language and what counts for the canon. But we have a long way to go before translated literature comes out of the ‘also-ran’ category and is taken seriously for itself. What we lack majorly are resources. Unlike in the west, literary translation in India is not a career option. Except for a handful of well-established ones, translators don’t get paid by wordage or a share in the royalties. One is lucky to be paid an honorarium. It remains something of an indulgence that one does for the love of language and literature and is, therefore, prohibitive as a sustainable activity. Also, while one may talk about inclusivity for dialects of the disempowered within the language of a state, there is a standardising endeavour in English however careful the translator may be in preserving difference. And all said and done, English remains an elitist enterprise in India—more so a literary sensibility in it. Translation is, after all, not a simple discipline. It is an art and a craft of language and is not free of its power trappings. This impasse—like everything else plaguing us—can only be addressed through education (access and quality) and greater social democracy.

How was your experience as a Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow in Creative Writing and Translation in 2022? Do you recommend it to emerging translators—what are the opportunities that they can look forward to?

The CWIT fellowship at Literature Across Frontiers (LAF), Wales, was a shot in the arm for my literary endeavours. It is one of the few places that recognise the close relationship between writing and translation and aim to nourish it by encouraging early-career writers who are also translators. After India where the paperwork for existence alone can fill entire libraries, I was pleasantly surprised by how refreshingly unbureaucratic University of Wales was. I was given the time and space to think, write, and translate at my own pace, and I was more prolific in those three months in Aberystwyth than I could have been in a whole year in India. I had an office in the Celtic studies building and it was lovely. I remember a lady I met in Lampeter making a friendly jibe at me for trying to be creative in what she thought was a dull room with no view. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her how coming from where I do, having a quiet place to myself—however lacking in view—and the freedom to use it as I pleased was a huge luxury. I completed the last part of my translation of Vasudhendra’s novel Tejo Tungabhadra there. I also finished the first draft of my short fiction collection of social satire Gooday Nagar. I am waiting for my agent Kanishka Gupta to find me a publisher for it. I also filled an entire notebook with poems, several of which were published in highly regarded British journals.

What are your thoughts on awards in the international translation world—has it affected the status of translators/translations in India in terms of finances and recognition or both? Do you believe this will mean that more books will be translated, or there will be more support for translations, even translation between Indian languages? 

Awards, prizes, and grants acknowledging translation is certainly good news. But they aren’t nearly enough and it is a bit of a lottery. It is, ultimately, a competition in a highly subjective field. They are great as pats on the back but the work of those who don’t win must also be accounted for. The pressing need, therefore, is for translation to be recognised as work. Paid work. Ultimately, only time and longevity decides the quality of one’s writing.

What are you working on next?

I am currently working on my third book and second novel. I am writing it in Kannada which I will then translate to English. Although it is my first language, I have never written in Kannada before and it is a daunting—albeit fun—prospect. For me, wordplay and the clever and beautiful use of language are as important as the plot. The title of my forthcoming novel is a play on a famous, modern Kannada natak. I won’t reveal it just yet, but it came to me as a joke, and it is so idiosyncratic to Kannada that the novel also begged to be written in it. I will have to come up with a creative alternative for it in English as it is an ‘untranslatable pun’. I will have to take some liberties with it, but I have always had great relationships with the authors I have translated, and I fully intend to continue the trend with myself.

I am also working at publishing Skinny Dipping in Tiger Country, my poetry collection soon. The title poem was published in PN Review earlier this year. I have been biding my time to find the right publisher for it.

Poems on the Mother Tongue

Poems on the Mother Tongue

By Nabanita Sengupta


Her mother tongue




I searched for my language

along the uneven surface of

Chhotanagpur, words rolled down

like pebbles, that we had

kicked with the tip of our

Bata shoes – jet black, polished

to shine and we bantered or

laughed. The boys cursed,

mothers and sisters at the

edge of their lips, meanings

versatile, occasions numerous.


I sought a language of my own

along city streets, in buses

and cars, in friendly quips

in the poems and stories,

juggling between tongues,

from Chota Nagpur to Delhi

to Kolkata, exchanging words

across states, across rituals

yet all I found were borrowed tongues


heart pumped words into the

veins, spreading from limbs to

mind to lungs.


words breathed, words mouthed,

aliens in my body, transfused in

the system by donors everywhere.

body rejects.

failed transfusions

colour my poems red.

I, a woman,

shed off the borrowed tongues

in search of a language called

my own.

I seek her

in each tongue I speak.




in an auction of words,

the meekest ones came

to me. Bidding, I raised my

bar higher, to grab the

powerful, yet each time

was outdone, a baritone won.


at a friend’s birthday,

words were packed

in coloured wrappers

and kept in a basket. my

turn to choose came

I unwrapped, delicate

dainties, pretty words.


my inheritance from

my mother were the words

dutiful and docile, spelled

to please and comfort. my

streedhan for the future,

assets to sail through rough weather.


I city hopped

cruised the seas

bartered words

swapped lingos


everywhere I found

women bartering


yet her body

spelt the same





Metamorphoses of Tongue


In a growing war field of languages

my body turns multilingual

and lives in translated spaces.

On a sleepy afternoon

it breaks down the imperialism

of everyday prose

and metamorphoses

into cottony clouds,

floating high up in infinite,

cooing love songs

in a new parlance.


Then it becomes a sea

hiding in its deepest deeps

stories of desires

prohibited in arid land;

with the chiming of a bell,

in the music of a waiting conch

it ushers in a whole new carnival


And when it turns into a forest –

whispering wind chants

its magic mantra

the ancient abracadabra

of the world before Babel

and valleys, mountains

wetlands sparkle

in a million blooms


Nothing gets lost in translation

as I pick up each touch

that metamorphosis incurs

and weave them tight into my skin

my multilingual self celebrates

freedom of warring tongues.


Harlequin Soul


What brush do I use

if not words

when polychromatic tongues

paint me in their hues


Crimson Bangla buried deep,

flowed quiet in the veins,

beneath the sun soaked epidermis

আমার প্রাণের ভাষা শিখে ডাকে পাখি পিউ

Bangla, placidly drifted, hidden

beneath the other tongues –

till she revealed herself

in the fertile green of a matured sun


in the courtyard of childhood

seven colours played,

तू जहाँ जहाँ चलेगा

मेरा साया साथ होगा

the rainbows of life –

friends and playmates,

shared lunches or kabaddi

brown and ochres on uniforms white

claimed a space in the

flowchart of time


yet English sparkled

irradiscent, multicoloured

structuring the faiths,

and the visible mien,

weaving dichotomies,

fab india cottons and fulia taant

and a world full of Plath

Kafka, Atwood or Achebe

all across the globe, they

housed in my mind,

shaped up my world


a bit of maithili here, or Assamese

and even splashes of French

Punjabi, Kannad, Tamil

made me friends,


limited potential…

i learned nought



each language is a home

a riot of colours


a polyglot – a harlequin soul



* – আমার প্রাণের ভাষা শিখে ডাকে পাখি পিউ  – a line from a Bengali song. It can be translated as –the bird learnt the language of my heart and cooed.

Transliteration: amaar praner bhasha shikhe daake pakhi piu

** तू जहाँ जहाँ चलेगा/ मेरा साया साथ होगा – translated as – wherever you go, my soul will be with you. a popular song in Hindi

Transliteration – tu jahan jahan chalega, mera saya saath hoga


About the author:

Nabanita Sengupta teaches in an undergraduate college in Kolkata as her profession and engages with poetry, fiction and translation to nurture her creative self. She is also actively associated with two literary groups, Intercultural Poetry and Performance Library and Kolkata Translators’ Forum.