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The New Stuff

Indian Writing in English

I happened to visit a prominent book store recently to buy some books as gift for a friend. After surfing around here & there, I thought of checking about latest addition through the store manager himself.

Me: Hi, can you recommend me some latest light reads?
Store Manager: Sure mam, what kind of language?
Me: English. BTW I always thought you keep only English books, do you’ve books of other languages too? I’m also looking for a very popular hindi title.
Store Manager: Sorry mam, we keep only English.
Me: Oh, so you asked what kind of language?
Store Manager: I meant you want to check out “Actual English” books or “Indian Writing in English”?
“Actual English” or “Indian writing in English”!!!
Me: Anything will do, show me some recent best sellers.

The manager showed me a stack of recent bestsellers & well the shelf consisted of maximum books by Indian authors only. Considering the fact that I’m an ardent fan of Indian writing, at one hand I was happy to listen to a separate categorization like “Indian writing in English” but at the same time this thing of “Actual English” or “Indian Writing in English” sounded nothing less than some sort of label for Indian authors. I think it was the word “actual” which created all the difference in terms of image! I was surprised to listen to it esp. because it was coming from a store manager himself!

Another incident was while chatting with this friend of mine who asked me to recommend her some romantic reads but immediately added - “don’t tell me one by an Indian author, they don’t have variety. And the language is also too desi”! “NO, I don’t agree” was the quick response which came out of my mouth.

Its years now that Indian authors have come of age. In fact as far as writing talent is concerned, India has always been a rich country since centuries. Think of the origin of the likes of Kabir, Tulsidas, Rahim, Mira Bai to the likes of V.S.Naipaul, Upmanyu Chatterjee, Amitav Ghosh & Kiran Desai, hasn’t India been there on the global literati roll forever??? Yes, a noticeable difference is definitely the trend of shifting language, thanks to all globalization & exposure to international culture that more & more Indian writers are writing in English now. Not only they are writing in English, rather they are creating a mark across continents with their stories & presentations. If you ask me as a reader, I think now-a-days every second book which I read is by an Indian author. And I totally enjoy it; I get whole lot of variety, I find the characters to be more relatable, plot to be more enjoyable & language to be absolutely at par with any other international author. To add to that in case the authors use some kind of local languages& phrases in between, then it’s nothing less than a mast tadka on dal, such seasonings give the book an additional flavor all together.

I was under the impression now that gone are the days when it was sort of uncool to read an Indian writing & if you’ve to flaunt a book you have to definitely take any other name apart from Indian one. But labels like “Actual English” and “Indian authors write too desi” leave me wondering once again. Are we still living in the age when Indian writing in English is not considered at par with other international counterparts? Do you still think of “Indian writing” as a separate label??? Well, all I can tell such people who have this opinion is to dive into the ocean of Indian writing seriously & then only you will have an estimate of the real depth of it. Yes, there are some crappy ones too but so are they there in those so called "Actual English" collections too.

29 comments :

Smita said...

Indian Authors (IAs) are looked down up period!!!

Last month I saw a slim si book called "Oh Shit Not Again", now as I always like to pick IAs i picked this one and it is a pathetic book.

But then for every bad book there are 2 great books but they hardly get promoted.

Also if you notice all the latest chic lits use hindi slang words generously and may be thats the reason that they are being called Indian Writing in English!!!!

Read the comment section here n my interaction with the author

http://smitajain.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/this-new-age-stuff-really-works/

Renu said...

Earlier I used to love reading Mulk Raj Ananad in English, I love Indian writers equally..I loves.inscrutable Americans,and suitable boy and two lives by Vikram seth and many more, I like them as much as other writers, sometimes even more.
This time when I went to Lucknow I bought few Hindi novels also:) I love Malti Joshi and Shivani.

The Survivor said...

The store manager was not clear in its interpretation of Foreign Writers and Indian ones.

Personally I have not read any books by Indian writers, btw does Chetan Bhagat counts in?

There is a difference though as I guess Indian writers tend to make use of the Hinglish slangs.

Nautankey said...

Now u know why I aint writing my best seller don't you? :P..I'd probably change my name to something sounding western and right it.

If enidblyton can write about an english breakfast why cant an indian author write about daltadka?. Its just a perception some have and u have listed enough example to break it

WSW said...

I lau Indian writers, I hardly ever check out foreign writers unless its a recommended book like Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat,Pray,Love.

But yeah, there is definitely two sets of Indian writers-Vikram Seth,Aravind Adiga,Jhumpa Lahiri and then all the clones of Chetan Bhagat.Former I like,latter not so much,because their quality swings between "wow" and "what crap"easily.

I liked "Earning my laundry stripes" and "Mediocre but arrogant" but "Anything for you maam" or one more love story set in IIT, I ll pass.

Kanupriya said...

@ Smita: hey interesting discussion, u left apt comments there!

@ Renu: Oh yeah, have heard of these 2 hindi writers, my mom had got many books of Shivani.

@ The Survivor: U know till the 1st one from Chetan Bhagat, it was ok...but then all those wanna be Bhagats were simply crap. God, every week I guess there is a story on IIT & IIM released now!!!

Kanupriya said...

@ Nautankey: Yup true. BTW when r u coming with ur book? :)

@ WSW: Yea, anything for u maam was a very very bollywood kind of love story. I mean it was just too filmy & that too of seemed like the story of college days like the ones of Madhuri Dixit & Anil Kapoor era. Haven't read "earning my laundry stripes", maybe will grab it next.

tellmeyourdreams said...

i also dont buy this bias against indian writers..though i am not much of a reader i remember reading a suitable boy by vikram seth and still cant forget the way it was written and almost lived the story woth him..too good!

Abhishek said...

I love Indian english writers, but most of them just write tomes or chicklits.

And ever since Chetan Bhagat started the trend, publishers are just grabbing any one with an IIT/IIM tag and making him/her write a book and this is a reason for that 'desi language' tag.

I have loved some of the non-fiction work of Indian writers.

Nupur said...

You have written my thoughts into this post ! I'm too an ardent reader of Indian Authors-who write in English :)

Well, i don't know if you have tried writings by Shahi Deshpande. If not please do that. I'm sure you would like the series very much !

By the way, the mast tadka on dal, is fab description of the writing. and i completely second it :)

Jack said...

Kanupriya,

Visiting after lapse of few days or weeks should I say. Read available posts. Please take care of your health as it is of paramount importance. I know time is a great healer but some memories never ever fade away. Writing in any language by those who learn the language is definitely different than those who grow up with it.

Looking for your visit here.

Take care

Tarun Goel said...

Well IA's are not that bad actually not bad at all. Bhagat Singh, Osho [:)], Amrita Pritam, so lets keep laughing about the question she asked,"What language books, maaaam? :D :P

The Thinker said...

Hi! Interesting post, most people distinguish between authors of Indian origin and otherwise only to pick out the style they prefer. My personal experience with Indian authors isn't that great. Not that the writing style or stories are bad, but I feel most of them write stories I can't relate that well to. There are Indian authors who are NRIs or write for that market, others who prefer writing something akin to a masala movie. But then such types of authors exist all over the world so it isn't right to generalize. Fiction and the arts aren't limited by culture, region or language, so a good book that suits one's sensibility is a good book no matter who wrote it.

Manoj said...

Hi KPS (as i used to call u);

Interesting...getting to see (read) a different KPS.

Happy Blogging.

Manoj G

Psych Babbler said...

I do call it Indian literature but that's because when I did English lit as one of my subjects in our second year we had 2 papers -- American lit and Indian lit.

I don't think it's not "actual english" and quite enjoy most of the Indian authors I've read. If I have a problem it's with the portrayal of women in some books. Rohinton Mistry by the way, is one of my fav Indian authors.

Winnie the poohi said...

I love indian writers infact make it a point to pick them up everytime I shop.. Frankly its not that hard.. IAs are making waves everywhere.. and I have been lucky to have read some good stuff esp Rozabal line (the latest I read)

ani_aset said...

i agree with the post kanupriya. The attitude has to change, starting from us indians first. We have to realize that everything phoren is not gr8

Uncommon Sense said...

by the way i read only indian authors,

But its true about romantic novels, there arent much good writers in india.

ubuntu said...

Hi Kanupriya,

I haven't read many English novels by Indian authors myself. But I agree there is a desi touch in those novels but that might be because of the Indian connection.

Btw, I myself had tough time looking for hindi novels in B'lore.

Smitha said...

I loved your post! I read like crazy and have to say that Indian Authors are just as good as any others.. And what is the about 'Actual English'? Is it only British English that is considered 'Actual English'? Or is just 'Western literature in English'? Makes one wonder!

I have found some wonderful books by Indian authors - some not even popular in India - I just happened to come across the books in libraries - but I think there is a lot of depth and variety to Indian Authors.. It is a pity that we Indians ourselves look down upon them..

Kanupriya said...

@ Tellmeyourdreams: Yea, suitable boy is really good.

@ Abhishek: Oh there r just too many Chetan Bhagat wanna-be s!

Kanupriya said...

@ Nupur: Hi, thanks for dropping by. I have read 2 books from Shashi Deshpande & loved her "that long silence"

@ jack: hey thanks for dropping by, will surely visit your blog soon.

@ Tarun: Absolutely true! Its just thier stupid perception.

Kanupriya said...

@ The thinker: Absolutely agree. Also I know there r some very crappy writers in India, but then so r they there anywhere else too.

@ Manoj: Ah sir, 1st of all thanks a lot for visiting my blog. Its an absolute pleasure to see someone like you comin to my blog & I'm so happy to know that u still remember the name with which u used to call me KPS :)

Kanupriya said...

@ Psych: Hey thanx for dropping by, yea Rohinton Mistry is my fav too.

@ Winnie: Rozabel lines? Ah, me haven't read it yet. Howz the book?

@ Ani: Absolutely! Thanx for visiting here!

Kanupriya said...

@ uncommon sense: yeah I know, most of them write bollywoodish romance. But have u read the old ones? Some r really good.

@ Ubuntu: Hey thanx for dropping by, BTW where did u find hindi novels? I still face tough time in looking for those. Me need to buy those mainly for my mom.

@ Smitha: Absolutely, that's what I was saying. Why unnecessarily this criticsim? Not everything is bad here!

Winnie the poohi said...

If you liked da vinci code.. you cant stop reading rozabel line until the end :)

Ann Dee said...

Indian Writing in English is not really a derogatory term. The nomenclature aids classification. Besides, Indian English writing has some distinctive characteristics that make them different from the British writers...you will notice a 'need', at times a forced strain to write uniquely..Salman Rushdie's are the perfect example of Indian English writing. Just that to him, it comes flawlessly and smoothly....and I absolutely love it. Other fav. ones being Kamala Das and Amitav Ghosh.

Mahdi said...

Hi, cool blog you've got here!
would you mind linking?!
http://aenglishl.blogspot.com/

ravneet said...

hiiiiiiiii guys i'm ravneet frm k'pur wud like to know abt sme gud romantic novels written by indian authors........... plz reply soon...............

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