Friday, July 20, 2007

Tagged -- On Indian Writing

Moppet's Mom tagged me on this one. Funnily enough, I'm probably overqualified for this (if that's possible). Since I reviewed Indian writing paperbacks for The Statesman for four solid years before The Bhablet and have just gone back to it, I have read lots and lots of these books. Different genres within them too, but mainly I have gone through the paperbacks, the chick lit, some thrillers and the occasional funny one. In my last sem of my Masters I picked Indian Writing in English as one of my chosen courses, so I did some background, theory and serious reading as well.

Ok, so for this tag I'm naming a dozen books I found memorable, not necessarily the best ones, and I'm sure I'll think of plenty more once I've put this post up. Because I've probably read hundreds, and have forgotten more than I can remember. I've given you all that history because it's true -- just so that Certain People do not accuse me of showing off. Because, this once, I could have, and I haven't.

1. Making the Minister Smile by Anurag Mathur

One of my earliest reviews, I loved the humour in it.

2. The Truth (almost) about Bharat by Kaveri Nambisan

Read it as a teenager and have been dying to go on a road trip ever since. You listening, V?

3. Grandfather's Private Zoo by Ruskin Bond

I mention this in particular because while I like most stuff written by Bond, I think this book is the most charming, the most whimsical, and I love my own copy, bought from a footpath in Abids, Hyd, for Rs. 10 nearly 15 years ago. I particularly love Mario's illustrations.

4. The Gardener's Song by Kalpana Swaminathan

Read it a fortnight ago and was very impressed. Will not say more since the review is not out yet.

5. The Uncoupling, Paddy Indian, both by Cauvery Madhavan

I don't understand why this very talented author hasn't written more books. Or if she has, why they haven't come my way. She takes fairly complex subjects, treats them with a casual unconcern that in no way detracts from their seriousness, throws in some humour at the right spots and ends up with a superb read.

6. Arundhati Roy's essays.

I thought and still think The God of Small Things was an internalisation of Pat Conroy's Prince of Tides. So I will not say anything else about that book, because I don't think I can be impartial about it. But my father gave me several essays written by Arundhati Roy, and I made myself go through them. I still think her novel is a rip off but I also hold her in the highest esteem as a writer. Her prose is so powerful, she can take on any author out there; in addition, she is so persuasive I think student lawyers ought to study her arguments.

7. Olivia and Jai, The Veil of Illusion, both by Rebecca Ryman

I wish, oh how I wish, I had known who this lady was, before she upped and died on us. For these two novels of hers are among my all-time favourites, but there was no way for me to ever go and tell her that -- even though I'm told she lived and died in Calcutta -- because her identity has remained a closely guarded secret. MM, how about seeing what you can get out of your uncle? I promise not to stalk her home!

8. Stage Whisper by Vimal Bhagat

A very inspirational tale of an eventful life. Of interest to anybody who follows English theatre in the metros.

9. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Gave me a whole new perspective on writing. I didn't know a story could be told like that and yet make complete sense from so many perspectives.

10. Travels with The Fish by C. Y. Gopinath

For the recipes as well as the Beatlemania. :) This is a fun collection of travel tales embellished with some interesting recipes.

11. Superhero, a collection of stories of Indian superheroes.

Went to the launch on Saturday (there's a story there, remind me to post about it one day). Read the book through by the next afternoon, 'flu notwithstanding. Except for two stories I really like the collection. This is definitely going into my column.

12. Swami and His Friends by R. K. Narayanan

A favourite from my own childhood. I know I came along a couple of generations later and in a very different era, but somehow, Swami and his troubles touched a chord within me somewhere.

I am also a huge fan of Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh and Ruskin Bond. I have not yet managed to read everything that they have written but I have read quite a bit.

I'm sure you've noticed that I've only discussed Indian Writing in English. There's a simple reason for that -- I can't read in any other language. Ok, I did make it through a comic book version of a Feluda story recently, in Bengali, but it took me too long for me to want to repeat the experiment. Besides, V laughed too hard.

I tag Pat, Priyanka, Pink, Sreejita and Beq -- have fun, you guys! Most of you need to post more often.


Moppet's Mom said...

I knew you would have an interesting list!

dipali said...

Inspiring list- need to check out some of the books you mention, esp. Vimal Bhagat and CY Gopinath-used to read his Fish excerpts in magazines. "Making the Minister Smile" was a riot. I loved Kalpana Swaminathan's "Page Three Murders". Her earlier "Ambrosia for Afters" was very dire and grisly, though there is no doubting her skill as an author. Kaveri Nambisan is an other brilliant doctor-author. One not very famous 'desi' murder mystery I have loved is Sharmila Kantha's "Just the Facts, Madamji"- brilliant, and particularly enjoyable for Delhi-ites. Have to have a book-talkathon with you one of these days, Sue:)

Sue said...

Moppet's Mom -- :) I loved doing this!

Dipali -- Yes, we should. How about meeting up sometime next week? Hopefully both The Bhablet and I will be more presentable by then.

Sameera said...

hey try the english version of feluda

published by penguin in two volumes

pure entertainment

ur gonna love it

Sue said...

Sameera -- I've read one fo the volumes, and yes, I had a lot of fun. You'll see that I did mention that many more titles would pop into my head after I finished. This was one of them.

eve's lungs said...

Does Amitav Ghosh qualify ? I liked Pankaj Mishra's Butter Chicken in Ludhiana . Also Kunal Basu - I liked The Miniaturist . I am currently reading Kalpana Swaminathan's Bougainvillea House and quite like it .Your list was quite inspiring - must try out some of the books

Brooke Lasatin said...

hey try the english version of feluda published by penguin in two volumes pure entertainment ur gonna love it