Tragedy, comedy and cynicism

Nikhil Bhave
Saturday, 7 April 2018

Gangadhar Gadgil is one of those economist-authors whose oeuvre is not limited to any particular genre. There are his Bandu stories offering a humorous peek into the travails of a Mumbai-based aam aadmi, his other works like Thirst, picture various shades of humanity, against the backdrop of an arduous train journey in summer. His entry into the world of autobiography is not half bad either. His autobiography Eka Mungiche Mahabharat won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1996. 

Gangadhar Gadgil is one of those economist-authors whose oeuvre is not limited to any particular genre. There are his Bandu stories offering a humorous peek into the travails of a Mumbai-based aam aadmi, his other works like Thirst, picture various shades of humanity, against the backdrop of an arduous train journey in summer. His entry into the world of autobiography is not half bad either. His autobiography Eka Mungiche Mahabharat won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1996. 

In addition, he has penned works on economics, travelogues and children’s literature. Now, one of his short story collections, Binchehryachi Sandhyakal, has been brought to non-Marathi readers by Delhi-based Ratna books and translated by Keerti Ramchandra. Ramchandra has also translated other Marathi works like Vishwas Patil’s Zadazadti (A dirge for the dammed), and Mahanayak. Both are pretty heavy books, theme-wise in their own right, and a proper translation is quite a feat. 

Coming back to Gadgil, this translated collection ranges from tragedy, comedy to cynicism. The first story, probably the best in the entire collection, is titled ‘Thirst’. As mentioned above, it’s a long, train journey featuring an ageing actress and her husband. They are locked in a loveless marriage. She wants to get out of it, but somehow always relents. 

The next features Gadgil’s brainchild Bandu. Against the backdrop of approaching monsoon and Bandu’s tendency to lose umbrellas, it offers us a glimpse into the life of an ordinary Mumbaikar. His world is explained through a look-around in his loft. His struggle with keeping umbrellas and his hide-and-seek with Mumbai monsoon brings forth the humour in this tale. 

The story after which the book is named portrays a typical Mumbai evening, with all the negatives of an urban life.

‘Bittersweet’ is a tale portraying the life of a hausfrau in a typical Maharashtrian household — love and intimacy, and the hatred and apathy. But it never feels bleak and maintains a sunny disposition throughout. ‘A man, a fairy and a tortoise’ is a spin on the classic tale of the hare and the tortoise, depicting the ambitions of various classes. 

One thing about translations is that it is very difficult to maintain the original linguistic flavour. This may be one of the reasons why the work of humorists like Sharad Joshi and P L Deshpande remains mostly untranslated.  However, this is definitely not the case here. Here is hoping that more of Gadgil’s work reaches outside Maharashtra.

A faceless evening and other stories
Author: Gangadhar Gadgil
Translated by Keerti Ramachandra
Publisher: Ratna books
Pages: 202
Price: Rs. 299

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