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.