Skeletons in the closet, a holiday romance, the inexorable allure of mystics and a tragic turn of events can be found in Bhairavi the Runaway, a Gothic novella by Gaura Pant.
Gaura Pant, who was popularly known by her pen name Shivani, was a prolific writer in Hindi during the early 60s and 70s. Her novels often centered around the culture and society of the times and its often hypocritical expectations of women.
A chance conversation with a colleague in the publishing industry led Priyanka Sarkar to take up the translation of Bhairavi... into English. “I have read quite a few of Shivani’s works and in this instance, had just finished reading Bhairavi.. . We were discussing it and she suggested I work on an English translation of the book,” says Priyanka Sarkar, a Delhi-based translator and editor.
Needless to say, Priyanka required the consent of Pant’s family before starting on the project. “I worked on around 10 pages and sent it acoss to Ira Pande, Gaura’s daughter. Once they were satisfied and gave their approval, I went ahead with it,” says Priyanka.
It was a genuine interest in this genre that lead Priyanka to work on Bhairavi . “I am very drawn to fantasy and Gothic literature, and Bhairavi is a full-bodied example of this style of writing in Hindi. I was working on something I loved,” says Priyanka, who took about a year to complete the translation.
In her work, Priyanka has kept to the author’s original style of writing where stream of consciousness and regional language references dominate. Bhairavi touches on the prevailing social norms of the time — marriage as a necessary duty for parents of daughters to fulfil, especially if their child is uncommonly beautiful; the confines of caste and community and the inescapable clutches of one’s fate.
Bhairavi The Runaway by Shivani and translated by Priyanka Sarkar is published by Yoda Press-Simon & Schuster.