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Prasad GJV

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Indian English Writing: GJV Prasad



Tree of Life. Warli art. Courtesy= etsy.com




I guess I can name Indian writers from A to Z to point out how many people write now, and show the number of publishing companies, and self-made writing millionaires to show how healthy the market is. I can name the number of big name English literary fiction writers of Indian origin to show how Indian English literature has kept going even though the flavour of the moment is Pakistan (and I need to pause here and express my intense sorrow at what has made Pakistan the news of the month; when children are killed in cold blood, it seems impossible to talk of literature.), and even major Indian publishers feel that the momentum has crossed the border. Who are the new big names in Indian English literature? Ask people around you and the highest votes would go to Chetan Bhagat, and Amish (now Tripathi). They make the big bucks and sell in numbers unheard of before; Chetan Bhagat will perhaps score the highest in brand recall and his novels have been made into fairly successful movies; and they have spawned a whole range of writers and works not only in English but in various Indian languages into which they have been translated. It is often said that they have a brought a new generation of youth to the world of Indian English readership; I am told reliably that they may have brought a new generation of readership into other Indian languages as well.

This to me is an interesting development till even ten odd years ago, from perhaps the 1930s, Indian English literary fiction had been pitted against literary fiction in other Indian languages; questions of authenticity, representative ability, location, class position, religious and caste orientation, and simply allegations of neo-colonialist collaboration were raised against Indian English writers. In the last two decades of the twentieth century Indian English writers had found themselves as chic niche in the world market and this caused even more envy and heartburn and genuine questions about the construction of India for this new consumerism. Now, we have writers selling a new India to Indians, who are buying in huge numbers. This world of aspirations that came first to us as ladki lit (soon followed by ladka lit) in chalta hai, this is jugaad India's English, soon speeded into slap dash novels written without any editorial help for we are like that only, and literature must communicate no bhai. Literary fiction is only just another genre now and perhaps the most elitist, the most non-desi genre in English, and thus the most easily marginalized or even ousted as mleccha, from outside the boundaries of this desi, conservative, corporate India.

Having said that, one must note that the variety of genres available in Indian English prose is impressive detective fiction, speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, graphic fiction, thrillers, erotica, ladki lit, ladka lit, young adults fiction, children's fiction, historical and literary fiction, and a wide variety of non-fiction (from religious to touristic, from explorations of the new urban to celebrations and critiques of the new economy, etc). You have city specific, region specific novels in almost all the genres. You can be overwhelmed by the variety of choice available on the shelves of any half way decent book-shop. Translations into English are also a lot more visible now even if not as popular.

Poetry is a brave survivor of the novel tsunami. Even a look at the ten years of Muse India will give a very good idea of the number of Indian English poets and the quality and range of their verse. Perhaps more international in the use of language, Indian English poets have always been more individualistic, more certain of their calling and one can see that in contemporary Indian English poetry as well from sedate literary poetry to performance poetry, from playing with Indian techniques to nuancing foreign forms, Indian English poetry has it all.

Indian English theatre too has come a long way but the giant striding the stage and numerous academic dissertations is the one and only Mahesh Dattani. However, the Indian city in all its multilingualism will find more and more space in Indian English theatre, but since it doesn't really make money, it may take us some time to find our Chetan Bhagats of drama.

If you look over the last ten years, celebrating Muse India, you will realise that the North East is turning into a powerhouse of Indian English literature, that there is a literature that stays and travels well within India, and there is a literature that travels the world. While it may seem to some of us that no markets are good markets when it comes to writing and evaluating literature, markets keep literature alive, and Indian English literature is thriving.

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  Hindi Literature: Sukrita Paul Kumar
  Indian English Writing: GJV Prasad
  Indian English Writing: Harish Trivedi
  Kannada Literature: Mamta Sagar
  Kashmiri Literature: Mohammad Zahid
  Maithili Literature: Vidyanand Jha
  Malayalam Literature: T P Rajeevan
  Marathi Literature: Sachin Ketkar
  Odia Literature: Lipipuspa Nayak
  Punjabi Literature: Tejwant Singh Gill
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