Recently some one asked me to suggest some good Indo-Pak books. When I started answering, I realised this subject was pretty vast and something I have managed to have a fair idea of intentionally or unintentionally. I checked my 'Books Read' list and found a good numbers of subcontinental books and authors on it. Probably this was my most read genre, next to the Short Stories.
The subcontinent authors and writings can be classified as follows:
The set of writers who were affected directly or indirectly by the biggest human displacement The India Pakistan partition. The authors from both sides continued writing about their nostalgia, childhood, love, loss, politics, middle class, fear and massacre. Those born pre 1947 have an authority to write even if they were scribbling on walls while partition was on. The famous names are,
- Saddat Hassan Manto who lost his country and his will to live.
- Ismat Chugtai stayed in India but lost the old world charm and friends
- Gulzar sahib writes still of his homeland the place of his birth, the green fields and the smell of earth.
Khushwant Singh wrote the 'Train to Pakistan'
Salman Rushdie, who doesn't know about the award winning magical realism Midnights Children
'Stories of the Soil' by various Punjabi authors talks about partition and the Punjab terrorism phase
Bhisham Sahni and Tamas
Millions of partition and freedom fighting stories, some told, some lost. East Bengal partition and political situation has been explained by the famous Bengali authors like Rabindrabath Tagore and Bankim Chatterjee
There are extensive non fiction works in this category as subcontinent political opinions, biographies of national leaders and freedom fighters. The story of my experiments with Truth by MK Gandhi and Discovery of India by Nehru.
The authors who were Britishers but never left India completely on independence or post independence. That penned their memories, experiences and stories. Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Flight of Peigona by Ruskin Bond, many short stories and Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
Pakistan - Bangladesh
Mohammad Hanif the smart racy thriller, The Reluctant Mohsin Hamid as the Fundamentalist, Burnt Shadows of Kamila Shamsie, short stories of Daniyal Mueenuddin and the quirky chiclit butterfly Moni Mohsin. Similarly there is Taslima Nasrin from Bangladesh boycotted and disowned for her writing. Tehmina Durrani does her work her work in female emancipation in Pakistan thru her work.
'Cinnamon Gardens' by Shyam Selvadurai takes me to the early twentieth century Ceylon.
There is a very string breed of NRI authors from VS Naipaul, Desai mother and daughter, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Jhumpa Lahiri.
There are regional writers showcasing the demographic characteristics and lifestyle of the vast and versatile India.
RK Narayan with Swami and Malgudi Days, the God of small things fame Arundathi Roy, one book wonders Lavanya Sabkaran and David Davidhar.
The melodramatic art loving Bengali men and the beautiful, strong yet emotional Bengali women have been depicted best by the lot of Bengali authors, as writing comes naturally to them. Saratchandra's Devdas, Bhibhutibhushan's Pather Panchali, Sankar's Chowringee, Satyajit Ray's Feluda and Short stories, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Sister of my heart to Oleander girl, Jhumpa Lahiri's interpreting namesakes, Kunal Basu's Japanese wife,
huff enough this list is never ending...
From lower middle class Premchand fighting evils of society, to financial and emotional love definitions by Dharamvir Bharati, Suitable boy and marriage by Vikram Seth, political renditions of Khushwant Singh, or the metro Life of Anurag Mathur, Anuja Chauhan and Nayantara Sahgal, the nations capital is the epicentre here. Ruskin Bond also covers the beauty of Himalayas just like Rudyard Kipling covers both hills and jungles.
Call it Mumbai or Bombay it has been the
Mehbooba of the writers. From Manto to Shantaram the city is dissected and presented naked and still loved and cherished. From Sanghavi's nostalgia of last and lost, Murzbaan, Rohinton and Namita Devidayal's reality of day to day life, Vikram Chandra's storytelling, Mumbai offers something for everyone. The other state of west - Gujrat has been covered by Chetan Bhagat in one of his books.
In recent times, many metro authors have emerged who don't stick to a state, city or region. They are well traveled and have observed a different India every time, Manu Joseph's illicit happy serious men, Arvind Adiga's white assassination tower, Vikas Swarup's slum dog millionaire and the popular Chetan Bhagat making the mullah if not literature.
Thats not all, Indian writers have written mythological fiction by Amish Tripathi, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (palace of illusions) and Devdutt Patnaik, historical fiction by Indu Sundaresan and Ashwin Sanghi and fantasy by Devkinandan Khatri's Chandrakantha.
There is so much more waiting to be explored and translated in the regional literarure. I have dabbled into Hindi a bit but with so many regions and so many languages there are not enough translators of Urdu, Tamil, Marathi and many other local language books. It's high time we bring Indian sub continental writing into the limelight for it has everything to compete and trump the world literature.