Manisha Chaudhry has many years of experience as a publishing professional and in the social development sector. She began working with India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, in 1986. An Editor and Translator fluent in Hindi and English, her translation, A Street in Srinagar, of the Hindi novel Ailan Gali Zinda Hai by Chandrakanta was shortlisted for the DSC Prize of Literature in 2012. From 2004-17, Manisha was Editorial Head at Pratham Books.
Chaudhry was a Founder Trustee of Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival.
She spearheaded the initiative of Bookaroo in the City and the Children’s Outreach of the Jaipur Literature Festival. She has been Adviser to the Kahani Festival and JUMPSTART, a children’s content congress run by the German Book Office.
She has been in the forefront of many new initiatives to democratise the joy of reading and books and improve equity in education. She is the Co-Founder of Manan Books (an imprint of Ignus Pahal).
What is your writing schedule?
I don’t have one! It depends on the project, the deadline and my own level of interest. I also work as an editor and a consultant, so all the work has to be juggled around and different things take priority at different times.
When I am writing/translating, I work for at least five hours a day. After the first draft, it could be much more fitful, depending on the level of revision.
Sometimes, you take it slowly to put some distance between yourself and the text. There may be times when things come to you in a rush and you want to put them down before they get lost.
Do translations energise or exhaust you?
They totally energise me. I enjoy thinking about them. I enjoy getting the first draft down. Revisions can be exhausting to begin with, but after a while you get immersed in the universe of the book. You mull over phrases, words, feelings, how things sound.
You review your choices repeatedly and it may be something that you are carrying around in the back of your head even as you are doing your daily chores.
Writing/translating advice you’d like to give your younger self?
Chill out! Take pleasure in the work without worrying about the judgments of others. Most of them are imagined and what matters most is to find your own voice.
What are your favourite books?
Different ones at different points in my life. Lately I loved The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy, 21 lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari and When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom. I can also re-read any book by PG Wodehouse, Jim Corbett and Three Men in A Boat by Jerome K Jerome at any time with great enjoyment.
Literary success vs number of copies sold?
If I had to choose between these two – literary success and the pleasure of having done it. Number of copies sold involves too many variables, most of which are not in your control.
Favourite spot/s in Delhi you write at?
My work table at home. I like to be in familiar surroundings when I am writing. In any case, Covid-19 has changed all the rules about going out to favourite spots.