Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On Indian Reality in Indian Writing and a Puppet Show

[. . .]
Talking about J-Talaiyya and Bhopal, another little idea that’s been slimed into the general argument is about the origin of the writer. This, too, has to do with the needs of the Western world: is he or she from an ‘elite’ institution in India? In which case, pip-pip and Ram-Ram, for not only are you genetically out of touch with Indian ‘reality’, you have no hope of ever getting in touch. If, on the other hand, you are from a ‘small town’, an Allahabad, an Etawah, a Nagpur or Kanpur then, talent or no, you should be fast-tracked to getting a licence to Represent India in Literature. It’s like saying you can only write about America or England if you’re from Smallburgh, Ohio or Milton Keynes. As a model for a literary quota-system this has, so far, been only lightly sketched out, but it is an idea towards which all sorts of people, including editors from Western imprints, may soon start to genuflect. Even if it comes out of a plush office on Fifth Avenue or Bloomsbury, this is ultimately a small-town mentality perpetually and desperately searching for another: we want the ‘real India’, yet another exotica guide-book, but an easily digestible one, written in idiot-prone prose, that we can massage into the final marketable product.
[. . .]
Ruchir Joshi slams the debate of "Indianness" in Indian Writings in English in his article:
From Inside the Leaf Storm - In search of the ‘exciting and new’ in Indian writing.

And earlier in the same article he has this to say about Rushdie:

[. . .]
Rushdie has now become a parody of himself, a kind of hopped-up Peter Sellers-like character, adorned by glamour, money and an array of ersatz Indian accents, with nothing very much at the core except the damned good occasional mimicry of a politically engaged essayist.
[. . .]
And calling Rushdie's and Naipaul's antics a "puppet show" he dismisses them both in the following words:
The fact is, both Naipaul and Rushdie are pathological egomaniacs, both kala aadmis acting out their little putul naatch for a gora audience; the fact is, the contributions of both to ‘Indian’ and World literature belong well in the past and have very little to do with what is exciting and new in Indian writing today.
A brutal article with more than a grain of truth and much that you can agree with. Read the complete article here. It was published in The Telegraph on Sunday.

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