As long as I remember, my childhood was spent rummaging through books for fantasies beyond existence. The crisp smell of paper still lingers in me as a souvenir of the sweet memories. From learning life lessons through Aesop’s fables to going on village-side adventures, from the Famous Five to bringing out the super-girl detective in me with Nancy Drew, I have grown up now to read more intense romantic fictions and rebellious political books.
Later, when life started pacing faster, there came boards and entrance exams. With time to only barely survive, I partly abandoned reading. Novels and comics remained a deserted past, until I came across Chetan Bhagat’s then best seller novel, ‘Three Mistakes of My Life’. It was about three young men trying to make a living in Gujarat, with cricket, romance, and religious riots to add hints of realism to the novel. My next read was ‘2 States’, a love story of a Punjabi guy and a Tamilian girl, set in the backdrop of IIM. Light-hearted and entertaining, with Bollywood-like clichés, it reflects the expectations of parents. Amidst north-south stereotypes, it questions the prevalent racism in India. Revolution 2020, another sleeper hit, cross-examines the tampered state of education in the country and narrates the excruciating pressure hapless students go through to get into a ‘good engineering college’.
The books no longer feel unfamiliar, narrating issues of fledgling individuals within Indian households and reinventing forgotten mythologies. Real-life love stories beyond caste and religion, tales of despair and struggle from the not-so-frustrating institutes of eminence filled the shelves. There emerged tales of strong women defying odds, fighting societal norms and falling, failing and rebuilding themselves in life again and again. Writing across the frustrations, dreams, and hardships of young Indians, writers struck the right chord in the youth of India.
Although in recent times, there has been high demand for these easy-read, young adult, semi-autobiographical novels, Indian authors have a whole spectrum of genres to offer readers. From entertaining classics like ‘Swami and Friends’, through which R.K Narayan portrayed a microcosm of India to the world, to the small town of Malgudi. Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’ is an excellent example of magical realist literature, traveling to various parts of the country including Kashmir, Agra, and Mumbai while incorporating many post-colonial events. While Jhumpa Lahiri had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her first short story collection, ‘Interpreter of Maladies’, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai, daughter of yet another prolific writer Anita Desai, won the Man Booker Prize for their novels ‘God of the Small Things’ and ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ respectively. These authors have molded Indian literature into what it is today and are unfortunately underrated in today’s Indian literature scenario.
Though the new generation novels cannot be paralleled with the maestros; these young Indian authors have started a trend of casual reading among young adults in a country where ninety percent of the 1.3 billion population does not speak English. Authors realized the scope of the ever-evolving, yet controversial crowd in India, thus shifting their focus specifically to the Indian market.
Some of the finest works of the emerging authors include Amish Tripathi’s debut novel ‘The Immortals of Meluha’, the first book in the ‘Shiva Trilogy’- an enthralling journey with Shiva, a tribal chieftain who needs to take the role of mankind’s savior. Using classical legends and mythology as a stimulus to his story, the book has sold over millions of copies all over the world. Ira Trivedi’s book, ‘India in Love: Marriage and Sexuality in the 21st Century’ dives into India’s social and sexual revolution through interviews with 500 people. ‘The Nine Chambered Heart’ is a beautifully written kaleidoscope of emotions revolving around nine characters, depicting slivers of love in each chapter.
These books written in lucid language with hints of colloquial English aren’t perfect, nor are they a marvel of literature. But they are Indian, in their very essence, and the simplicity is adaptable to new readers, and for those with broken or inarticulate English. These books now portray a new wave of literature, offering young readers who once experienced an inability to identify with books due to lack of familiarity, a more realistic and perceptible reading experience. It marks an end to the era of foreign authors who’s works had been prevalent throughout India all these years. A new age of Indian literature is upon us, dominating our culture, and will shape our dreams through the years.
~Amal Humayoon for MTTN ~Artwork by Ashirwad Ray