As Dad hunkers down at his newest project, translating a new find, I am overcome with gratitude for his zealous persistence. Not everyone has a 92 year old research assistant who works as hard as he does. He has summarized, transcribed and translated thousands of pages of documents that I collected this last year. It seems I keep finding new things. A book just arrived in the mail today. Published in 1905, it has one chapter that was written by Ferdinand Hahn. Together my dad and I have taught ourselves to read the old German script, and with the help of translation engines, he has translated almost all the original source material I found. The handwritten documents are still nearly impossible for us to manage.
I confess, many times I have thought he really works too hard. But that is how he keeps going. He loves the work, and is as invested in the success of this project as I am. There are many days I would have slacked off, or given up, if it hadn't been for his persistence and encouragement.
Meanwhile, I had hoped to have the initial draft completed by now. Instead I am still about six chapters away. After a brief bout of self doubt I am now satisfied with the pace. My new deadline is June (followed by deeper editing). Rewriting and creativity are traveling hand and hand. I keep remembering my favorite line from "The Agony and the Ecstacy": It will be finished when it is done. I just keep on persevering.
What is most astonishing is how often when I approach a part of the story that I get stuck on something happens that sheds light on that very thing. Often dad starts telling me about what he is working on, and it is the very piece I needed for something puzzling me. Or it is a message or visit from someone that reminds me who I'm writing for.
We enjoyed a visit of Jhakmak and Nirjah Ekka and their four children, who visited last weekend. They are in the US for a year, and will return to Jharkhand in June. It was so wonderful to have the opportunity to greet them in Adivasi tradition of washing of hands. We had so much to talk about. I was reminded of how important this book will be to tell the story, not only of Ferdinand, but also of the Adivasi and the Christians in India.
The chapter that I have been avoiding is the climax of the book about the Birsa Munda revolt and it's impact on Ferdinand. It was a volatile moment in the Adivasi history that reminds me a lot of our political climate today. I feel that Ferdinand struggled with his response, much like I struggle daily with my response with so much that is going on these days, in both America and India. How can I respond constructively, rather than be simply reactive? Perhaps I am finding difficulty writing about who Ferdinand was in a troubled time 120 years ago because I am having a hard time knowing who I am in today's world. I think I am still waiting for the answer.
I am fine with whatever speed it is. There is an urgency, but I cannot rush things. I know my dad has a sense of urgency. Not only do I need easier access to the information, but he is slowly going blind. As long as he has his sight he feels compelled to do this work. I need a different kind of sight. To seek what gems are in the details of the story. In both cases we persistently carry on, and move forward.
Johar! Yeshu sahay!
These musings include the journey of my writing on the history of my great great grandparents and the travels for research to India, Germany and other places of interest.