Mr. Shivprasad Mantri, University ranked mechanical engineer, former CEO, TATA Toyo Co.  is an institution in himself, as his vast knowledge of Maratha history is unrivaled.  History changes from being a drab and distant subject to an interesting and relevant narrative with him. No wonder, his book “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj – Biography and Learning”     has struck a chord with readers of all ages. It is one of the fastest selling books published by Vishwakarma Publications. I had the good fortune of sitting down with him to glean his views on this latest book, and history in general.  Here is an excerpt of our conversation.

1. What was the purpose behind writing a book on Shivaji, when almost every aspect of his biography has been explored?

The primary purpose of writing this book was to bring a brief history based on established historical facts and select learning derived from the accomplishments of Chhatrapati Shivaji. . We read history books, but there seems to be no real learning from them. My intention of writing this book was to come up with an accessible book of history, which will inform the readers about Shivaji’s life and allow them to learn life lessons.  So, I extracted ten of the most important life lessons from Shivaji’s life and presented them, one in each chapter supported with an actual case story from Shivaji’s life. This is the unique feature  this book. So, you might find a hundred other books on Shivaji, but certainly not one like this. 

There is an African saying – ‘If the lions don’t have their own storytellers, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.’ Our history has met the same fate. Our history has been distorted by the British to suit their narrative. It’s time we reclaim and write our own history about our heroes.  Thirdly, we wanted to publish a book, which will be in perpetual demand. Since Shivaji  is religiously followed by the young and the old alike, we wanted to publish a book on him. “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj- Biography and Learning” is a result of all these factors.

2. Walk us through the process of writing the book? Writing history in an accessible manner can be a challenging task considering historical events are never simple, never black and white, many shades of grey? How did you overcome this problem?

The book is based on the books and speeches of renowned historian late Shri Ninad Bedekar.  Mr. Bedekar is widely respected for keeping the fiction and history separate. This book is based on  his books and several speeches he delivered on the subject. Once we gleaned through the information we needed, I wrote the book in Marathi and then in English. We also worked very hard to get the vocabulary right. Since we intended school children to be our primary audience, we made sure complicated words were replaced with simpler ones and all the casteist and words that indicate violence were removed while retaining the essence of the message.

3. The book is written in both Marathi and English, obviously with an intent to expand audiences. Are the books vastly different in style and approach?

Yes. Since both the  audiences are different in temperament and sensibility hence we needed different styles. The Marathi book is written keeping the Marathi audience and their sensibility in  mind. Ketaki Chikte has translated the book in English.  She is a young girl who is familiar with the style and vocabulary of the younger generation. She has produced a lively translation of the book and infused it with a life of its own. 

4. Walk us through the process of translation? Was it a collaborative effort or did the translators do it on their own? Do you feel the essence of the book was preserved in translation?

It was a collaborative effort. Our idea of  translation was not to have a mechanical word to word and sentence to sentence translation of the book. My brief to my co-translator Ketki Chikte was to keep the essence intact and simultaneously experiment with the language to make it relevant and appealing to the target audience. My job in the collaboration was to tone down excesses in vocabulary and style.

5. How was your experience of publishing with Vishwakarma Publications?

They have an excellent team in place that gives them a clear edge over other publishing houses. It’s a new publishing house, so they need to streamline a few loose ends. But I wouldn’t worry about that because their eagerness to put forth a quality product compensates for that. I have suggested a lot of other writers to publish with them. It’s certainly a publishing house with a difference!

6. What is on your current reading list?

I continue to read extensively on Chatrapati Shivaji and Bajirao Peshwa as I intend to keep writing about them. I am currently reading all available books and documents on Raigad fort and plan to publish a Booklet Raigad – Capital of Swarajya. What to know? What to see? “