Write Away!

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Indian literature in the English language is said to be in its most glorious period – we have a plethora of amazing authors and poets who are writing with a nuance formerly nonexistent in Indian English literature. And our authors are being renowned not only in India where more and more readers are grabbing copies of desi authors but on the world stage as well. A solid indicator of this is the fact that four Indian writers or writers of Indian origin, as the case may be, have won the prestigious Man Booker Award! Here is a little more about these four highly talented authors who have been responsible for revolutionizing the literary scene in the country –
1. Salman Rushdie

A British Indian author, he won the Man Booker for his second novel, Midnight’s Children, in 1981. A master of fiction, much of his work is based in the Indian subcontinent. Midnight’s Children follows the journey of a boy who is born at the stroke of midnight just as India gains independence and starts its own journey from being a colonial state to an independent one. The boy is endowed with magical powers and a connection to all others who were born at the magical moment of India’s independence. Not only did this remarkable novel win the Booker, in 1993 and 2008 it also won the Best of Bookers i.e. the best novel to have won the award in 25 and 40 years respectively. This widely-acclaimed masterpiece was turned into a movie of the same name by Deepa Mehta, Mr. Rushdie wrote the screenplay for it. In other words, Mr. Rushdie has been at the helm of India’s literary revolution.
His subsequent books have done exceeding well too while his personal life has been marred with controversies – a fatwa was declared against him because of alleged blasphemy in his novel the satanic verses by the Ayatollah of Iran calling for Rushdie’s execution. He recently wrote about his life under the fatwa in Joseph Anton – A Memoir.

2. Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy won the Man Booker in 1997 for her debut novel The God of Small Things. She took around 4 years to complete this novel which is semi autobiographical in nature and focuses on a major part of her childhood years. Roy received remarkable reviews from all corners of the literary world and was a commercial (Roy’s advance for the book was half a million pounds) and critical (listed as one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year for 1997) success. Roy made the world sit up and take notice of Indian writers and showed just how mature and beautiful the sensibilities here are. Interestingly, The God of Small Things is the best-selling book by an non-expatriate Indian. After the phenomenal success of The God of Small Things, Roy has written a televesion serial called The Banyan Tree as well as a documentary, DAM/AGE : Life with Arundhati Roy. She has contributed to several books and has more recently taken the role of a political activist.

3. Kiran Desai
She won the Man Booker award for her novel The Inheritance of Loss in 2006. Its extremely interesting to note that her mother, Anita Desai, was herself shortlisted for the prestigious award as many as three times! Inheritance of Loss deals with the topics of migration and the past and present, the narrative shuttling between the two. Set in 1986, the Gorkhaland movement is the historical background of the novel. Her first novel, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, had won a lot of critical applause as well with names like Salman Rushdie recognizing her talent.

4. Arvind Adiga
Shortly after Kiran Desai’s win in 2006, the Man Booker was again awarded to a person of Indian origin in 2008. Arvind Adiga, an Indian writer and journalist, won the esteemed award for The White Tiger. Aravind Adiga, 33 years of age, was the second youngest writer as well as the fourth debut writer to win the much coveted award. The novel is satirical take on India’s struggle with the all-encompassing globalization, depicted retrospectively through the eyes of a village boy, Balram Halvai. It also deals with such complex issues such as religion, caste and poverty. Adiga was showered with praise regarding his nuanced understanding of the complexities plaguing the country, especially at this crucial juncture in history. Shedding light on this he says,” At a time when India is going through great changes and, with China, is likely to inherit the world from the West, it is important that writers like me try to highlight the brutal injustices of society (Indian). That’s what I’m trying to do – it is not an attack on the country, it’s about the greater process of self-examination.”
After winning the award, Adiga wrote Between the Assasinations and subsequently Last Man in The Tower.

All due to these exceptional writers does India have a strong presence on the world literary stage after being treated as unwelcome guests for many many decades. Seeing their success and the respect that they have bought to the country, we sincerely hope that creative writing shall be considered as a viable career option by Indian parents. Another aspect that we can improve in, apart from broadening our mindsets, is infrastructure. There are hardly any creative writing courses in any university in our nation. These four have set the ball rolling. Many have followed the lead ( Jeet Thayil, Amitav Ghosh to name a few). It’s time for more and more to join in. Write away!