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Indian writing in English - contd

by Dr. Ramlal Agarwal
(Jalna, India)

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The most appropriate word and the one Rushdie himself uses to illustrate postmodern trickiness in Indian English is "Chutnification." ‘Midnight's Children is a model of the process of chutnification. In this novel, Rushdie takes bits of realism, bits of surrealism, bits of fantasy, bits of history, bits of psychology, bits of sociology, bits of narrative techniques of the West and the East, and seasons these with hyperbole. The literary climate of the eighties welcomed the experiment and canonized it. The welcome accorded to Rushdie unleashed a spree of experimentation in India.

Shashi Tharoor made a paste of an ancient Indian epic and post-Independence political history and called it The Great Indian Novel. Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel is an apt example of Rushdie's “Chutnification". Shashi tried another trick in another novel The Show Business. He presents the novel as a scenario of a film shooting. One of the bulkiest novels in Indo-English literature is Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. Seth turns the novel into a show-window of vulgar display of wealth and inanities. In another bulky novel Secred Games, Vikram Chandra yokes English and vernacular slang to carry his story of crime and corruption and the cat and mouse game. Another voluminous novel by Tarun Tejpal, The Alchemy of Desire was praised by none other than V.S. Naipaul, usually acerbic about Indian performance. He said, " At last a new and brilliantly original novel from India.” The originality of the novel consists in blurring the thin line between pornography and art.

The much praised and Booker winner novel by Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things is about an orthodox Syrian Christian family from Kerala, buffeted by accidents, misfortune, class-struggle, political and economic
upheavals and unbridled psychological urges. Obviously, the material would require a Henry James to do justice to it, but Roy packs it all in one travellers' bag. Notwithstanding the liberties taken with the established form of the novel, these novels received rave reviews and Indian writing in English began to find a market in the West never dreamt of before. The Indian writers in English also began to get advances and royalties which flabbergasted everyone. It was said that Manil Suri got an advance of a staggering five million dollars for his The Death of Vishnu.

The rave reviews, high voltage publicity, and the rain of dollars created a sense of euphoria in India and everyone started talking about Indian writing in English and Indian novel in English found their way in thousands of libraries.
It was for this reason that Rushdie affirmed "the prose writing both fiction and non-fiction between 1947-97 by Indian writers working in English is proving to be a stronger and more important body of work than most of what has been produced in the 16 "official languages" of India and that this new and still burgeoning "Indo-Anglian" literature represents perhaps the most valuable contribution India has yet made to the world of books." (The Vintage Book of Indian Writing, 1947-97), Rushdie's comment has triggered a hate campaign against Indian writers in English by Indian writers in Indian languages. 'Outlook’ announced in bold letters on its cover that ‘Indian English writers are intellectual pygmies." Prof. B. Nemade said that "there was something suspicious about this business of overnight success." Other writers thought Indian writing in English lacked the power to enrich the Indian psyche and failed to provide emotional sustenance. It simply doesn't click with the readers.


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