The room had emptied now, leaving an embarrassed Gattu pinned to the steps. The clock struck four; his shift was starting and he would lose half a day’s pay if he was late. Gattu turned away with a heavy heart, dragging his feet.
“Pannalal” Gattu turned around with a start to find Umashankar standing in front of him. “I’m sorry! I didn’t recognize you earlier from the car. I thought you were a student. And the two friends kissed for a long time.
“…I have to tell you something very important.”
Gattu stood up, “Yes, carry on.” “Pannalal, you have to start writing.”
“What! Me, write? What would I write about, even if I could?
“Whatever your heart feels, whatever your pen writes.”
“But you live in Bombay. Who will guide me? Who will check if it is worth something or if it is useless?
“Show Sundaram what you write.” Umashankar introduced Gattu to Sundaram who was sitting next to him…”
These are excerpts from “Finding Gattu”, an upcoming abridged English translation of Gujarati novelist Pannalal Patel’s autobiography. The book describes how a chance encounter with the great Gujarati poet Umashankar Joshi inspired his childhood friend Pannalal, who became a domestic helper and factory worker, to make ends meet, to write.
Pannalal (1912-1989) and Joshi studied together at a high school in Idar in present-day Sabarkantha district and the friendship endured, despite their lives following different trajectories after both left high school. Joshi went to college for higher education and became a famous poet early in his life, while Pannalal alias Gattu dropped out of school for lack of money and took menial jobs to support himself. needs. While Joshi became the first literary man from Gujarat to win the Jnanpith Prize – India’s highest literary honor – in 1966, Pannalal followed in his friend’s footsteps and won the prestigious award in 1985, becoming the second Gujarati to win. win the highest honor.
Pannalal is best known for his novels Malela Jeev (1941) and Manvini Bhavai (1947), both of which were adapted for film and later translated into English. The author also wrote his autobiography Jindagi Sanjeevani, a seven-volume account in Gujarati published between 1981 and 1986.
Now Natasha Patel Nema, Pannalal’s granddaughter, has translated selected chapters of Jindagi Sanjeevani into English and is ready to publish the abridged autobiography, titled Finding Gattu.
“It is true that the two famous novels by Pannalal have been translated into English in addition to being adapted for the cinema. But the author’s life story is just as captivating, and I thought people would find it interesting to read. To make his legacy accessible to people beyond the Gujarati world, I attempted to translate Pannalal’s autobiography into English,” says Natasha, daughter of Pannalal’s daughter, Nanda.
Natasha, who studied business administration, calls Finding Gattu “an English adaptation” of Jindagi Sanjeevani. “The original autobiography is a voluminous book. I have endeavored to make the autobiography interesting for today’s generation by choosing the best from the original while remaining true to the original,” says Natasha, 40.
For Finding Gattu, Natasha collaborated with The Narrators, a Mumbai-based group that helps people self-publish. “Natasha approached us with the draft of Finding Gattu and we were quickly on board with the project,” said Reshma Jain, founder of The Narrators, adding that they had recently secured the ISBN for the upcoming book.
Natasha says she became interested in Jindagi Sanjeevani when she first read it in 2012 for a photography project. “I have faint memories of my nana (maternal grandfather) but while reading Jindagi Sanjeevani, I felt that nana wrote this autobiography for me. Besides her work, her life journey is so enchanting, that many people might find it interesting to read,” said Natasha, who wrote and published a cookbook in 2020, adding that she is in talks with a Noida-based publisher and the book will also be available on Amazon.