Common Pain Dilutes Boundaries and Translates into Common Efforts
BYLINE: Akanksha Tyagi
Tomoko Kikuchi is a Japanese woman who has translated a book in Hindi for Indian readers written by an American author in Japanese. In the present times when almost every country is trying to prove its strength or holding on other weaker, smaller or equal countries – this initiative is a need-of-the-hour for universal friendship, global peace and optimum utilization of scientific innovation and development. To commemorate the 71st year of nuclear bomb attack by the American army on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the book “main dhoondh raha hoon” (I
am searching) was launched at Bhopal. Tomoko teaches Japanese and Hindi. She has translated three books before this. She lives in Gurgaon. AKANKSHA TYAGI speaks to her after the book is launched at Bhopal.
Q.Tell us about the book?
A.The book “main dhoondh raha hoon” (I am searching) is a translation of collection of poems based on the aftermaths of bomb explosion on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The objects preserved at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum are the narrator of the poems. These objects are personified as if speaking to their owners and helping the readers to know them, how were they occupied in their routine lives before the
bombing. The objects remind us that the people living before the bomb-explosion were living ordinary lives with ordinary things – and how it impacts everything around and life. Also, these objects may perform very functional duties but they are important to our lives. Using the available, routine things with sensitivity and utmost care is another thought that springs in our head after reading this book. This book, the memorial, the poems written by the original author Arthur Binard – all these are reminders that such an act should never be repeated. Also to tell the world that we have not forgotten such an act happened in the history of mankind. It also forces the reader to think how the scientific and technological advancement cannot be used against humanity.
Q.How did you decide to translate this Japanese book into Hindi?
A.I have translated three Japanese language books earlier. One was a popular book in Japanese for children. I translated it for India’s children. It is called “Hiroshima ka dard”. Another one was a comic, a famous one in Japan. This comic was not for very young children. The target readers of the comic were young to adults. This was also about what had happened in Japan. In 2013-14, I had translated a comic which was based on the story of a teacher with hearing-difficulty. I had been constantly mulling over the idea of how to spread awareness and inform people about the aftermaths of bomb-dropping at Hiroshima. Another concern was it needed to be told to every age-group, not just adults. Even children should know what the history was. It was after the continuous thinking, that this present book was translated. The original book was published in the year 2012 – it is a new book in
that sense. I decided to translate this book for some important reason – this book was authored by an American. This is the most important thing. I believe, such horrific tragedy of mankind can only be told through friendship; and not with enmity. Having American history of bombing Japan, an American writing with reference to Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a milestone achieved. I wish the story is told globally in as many languages as possible. For now, it is available in two languages – Japanese and Hindi.
Q.Has the original book impacted the after-effects of war or any kind of man-made disasters (industrial etc) – in the region? How?
A.I have not lived in Japan for so many years now – so I do not know about its impact. What I can tell you is that this is an awarded book. What I can tell you is the atomic bomb attack has impacted and is continuing to impact the lives of Japanese. Every year, a census is taken of the lives lost due to the effect of radiation. 7,000 plus were recorded as dead in 1945 when America bombed Nagasaki. It has risen to more than a Lac till 2015. The effect of radiation rises from one generation to the other. We are together with Bhopal in understanding and feeling the impact of such disasters!
Q.Tell us about the museum created on the bombing site in Nagasaki?
A.According to you, is it the public or the government which takes such an important step to preserve the things / site affected? (In case of Bhopal Gas tragedy or any other industrial disaster, usually the government would prefer to wipe off the remains of any disaster for public to forget!)
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is created where the bomb was dropped. It is spread in huge area of land. The things are preserved in the state they were after the bombing. This is to remind everyone that this cannot happen again. That we cannot go against humanity at this scale again. This is created by the municipality. So it is done by the government. I know and it is sad that mostly governments will wipe-off the remains of any disasters, but that did not happen at Hiroshima. Many countries are disaster-affected and various organizations /
groups and individuals are working towards awareness.
Q.Do you believe in the times of internet and technology, there is a need for a common network and work hand in hand for more power, more hearing, more awareness and more work – for intervening in the decisions national governments take? How can one achieve it? Would you like to initiate?
A.There are many NGOs which are working towards the cause in spreading awareness and advocacy or working at the grass-root level with the affected. Technology and internet is helping to spread awareness. Media, I think has an important role here. It can also help inspreading awareness. It is media which has a widespread reach.
Q.Coming back to the book,How do you see / wish the book as – a literary classic (as its content is in poetry form) / informative (for the history it has) / leisure-reading (things personified and talking) or something else! And who are the target readers?
A.I do not expect it to belong to any specific category. I want it to reach to maximum number of people. From my personal experience I have observed adults enjoyed reading it as much as young children. The book has a loud and strong voice – may it reach to as many as it can. Every language / culture has its own world-view, metaphors and
Q.How did you overcome the “translation hitch” of putting across the right reference when you translated Japanese into Hindi?
A.Rightly said, Japanese and Indian background is different. There are some cultural differences which also reflect in the content of the book. However, I have avoided giving footnotes – to keep it simple. I did not want to give whole description of words on every page. And yet, when anyone asks me I explain it in detail. For example – I have used a phrase “daal-chaawal”. The “daal” I mention is not the Japanese daal. Daal there is green and here it is usually yellow. Similarly, “chaawal” mentioned here is not Japanese chaawal. Yet, I did not want to explain this in the footnote. It is important for the reader to understand what is the issue. It only meant the food was burnt. And
that can happen to any kind of food. Here I took “daal-chaawal”.
Q.How can one widen the reach /market of such books; which are written from a specific geographical area and yet have global issues – aftermaths of wars, affecting the living beings; and the need of every nation to become a nuclear power?
A.I won’t mind if it reaches the market. However, there is a fright – then it would be operated like how things run in the market. I am primarily interested that it reaches the education sector. Once it reaches there, children and adults are discussing about it – it is doing the job of spreading awareness and discussion.
Q.Have you read any Bhopal gas tragedy-related literature? If yes, would you be interested in translating them from Hindi to other languages you know?
A.After my visit to Bhopal, I realized how much we did not know about the “Gas tragedy”. It is important to spread the word. We may have heard about Nagasaki or Bhopal gas tragedy but it is not enough. There
is more to such events. I am thinking of how and what can be done in this case. Japanese
should know about the Bhopal gas tragedy too!