Stories from afar, in Marathi

Subhash Abooj

About a decade ago, some lecturers teaching foreign languages at various institutes in Pune felt the need of a literary magazine dedicated to Marathi translations directly from these languages. They set up a group named Kalasakta and brought out the first issue of Kelyane Bhashantar on January 1, 1999. It was a 64-page quarterly, typeset at home, xeroxed and distributed, mostly to friends. By the end of the year, they reached a ‘circulation’ of 400.

“It was the only literary effort of the type then, and regrettably, even now,” says Vidyasagar Mahajan, Kalasakta secretary and chief editor of Kelyane Bhashantar. Although none in the group had much experience in the line, the importance of their work was recognised soon. The Rajya Marathi Vikas Sanstha, then headed by Sarojini Vaidya, sanctioned them a grant around the end of the second year of the venture. It covers a part of the expenses.

The editing team comprising Vidyasagar and Sunanda Mahajan, Anagha Bhat, Chetan Thakar and Vivekananda Phadke had a big job on hand—from translating some work themselves, persuading other foreign language experts to contribute and editing to typesetting, proof-reading it and getting everything ready for printing. And all this within the deadline. Then they organised the distribution. There was no question of paying any remuneration to anybody. They had to share the expenses not covered by the income from subscriptions.

Sometime in 2002, the Mahajans received a phone call. The person at the other end said he was Sharad Pawar. He wanted to talk with the Kelyane Bhashantar editor. Even Sunanda, normally an effervescent talker, was too stunned to say a word. Pawar said it was good work they were doing. He inquired about the economics of their venture. He saw to it that Kelyane Bhashantar got a substantial funding from the Nehru Centre, Mumbai. From then on, the group could focus solely on the literary aspect of Kelyane Bhashantar. But the entire editorial team continues to work in completely honorary capacity.

Ashok Jain, then with Maharashtra Times, did a lot to promote their magazine through his column. People outside Pune came to know about it and started becoming subscribers. Jain also helped the Kalasakta team to organise a convention of translators on May 1, 2003. It garnered a huge response.

Kalasakta presents a stage show, Tikdun Aanlelya Goshti (roughly meaning Stories from Afar), as part of its promotional strategy. The show comprises dramatic reading of selected translations of short stories. Actors Ila Bhate and Atul Kulkarni participate in the show along with others.

Kelyane Bhashantar will enter its tenth year in January. It has published 34 issues so far. It mainly presents short stories, poems, short plays, one-act plays, book reviews and excerpts from novels. Some major authors whose work has been translated are Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekov, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Franz Kafka, Simone the Bouvier, Juan Jose Areola, Bertolt Brecht and Mikhail Sholokov. The major share of the work translated is from French, German, Russian, Spanish and Japanese languages. Some Urdu stories from Pakistan and some Chinese work too have been translated. Recently, the magazine started including a translation from an Indian language also.

In a new and welcome development, the work published in Kelyane Bhashantar will form the content of three forthcoming books. Kalasakta and Manovikas Publications will bring out this year Nissim Bedekar’s collection of stories translated from Japanese, Anagha Bhat’s stories from Russian and Vidyasagar Mahajan’s novel from German. More such books are in the pipeline.

Some international recognition too is on its way. S Fisher, Suhrkamp and Random House publications from Germany and some Japanese publishers have offered Kalasakta the translation copyrights for their work. After ten years of hard work, the editorial team continues to be enthusiastic about the work. “When we began, we had intended to run it for 50 years. The plan remains unchanged,” says Bhat.

Vidyasagar Mahajan wants to broadbase the content by including work from more foreign languages, “if we can get it.” All those interested in such work are welcome to contribute, he says.
(Kalasakta can be contacted on email at

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