Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tag no 1- Indian writing

Have 3 tags pending and I have never liked this feeling of having too much to do and the list only going to get bigger, so here goes....

Hope she's enjoying her heart out in sexy Europe, but too bad Poppins is not around to comment on my finally having gotten around to doing her tag... after having slept on it for so long.

The difficulty with this tag was that I had to really sit and think about the many authors I liked.

I'd finalise on some and then suddenly come up with one that I'd forgotten, but had really been quite loved... And I was just not able to decide( now I hope this doesn't lead to a mistaken notion that I'm the final authority on Indian Writing- I'm so NOT) and I dillied and dallied... and in the meantime all the others got cracking, and I felt awed that so many of them had read so much more than me...

Then I finally thought i'd just do it the simplest way, and the easiest way, which was to start at the very beginning and then go on from there...

So starting with my very first exposure to Indian writing, how can I forget- Amar Chitra Katha? I loved, still love, will always love them. I particularly liked the mythology series... and recently, I have picked up the entire lot for Sonny boy. Well, I say its for Sonny boy, but since he's too young to read them , its actually for Sonny boy's Amma and Acha who both adore those comics. I also liked Indrajal comics, but Phantom more than Mandrake, more than Bahadur, more than Flash Gordon. If the ACK women were the epitome of Indian grace and sensuousness, Diana was the epitome of feminine ooomph! to me, closely followed by Narda and Lothar's girlfriend. (I forget her name, I think its Karma?) Champak, Chandamama were not as great favourites. I did not like Tinkle so much, tho' I did get my first prize for writing from Uncle Pai, for a complete-the-short-story competition- a princely sum of Rs. 25/-

In my Enid Blyton years, I found Shashi Deshpande, an Indian Enid Blyton, with Indian scenarios and kiddy escapades. Food played an integral role in Shashi's books, as did kids who gorged on them, and I enjoyed reading her writings about the cousins who get together for the holidays, and into fun and mischief.

The next big piece of Indian Writing that I remember was my non-detailed text in high school- The Room on the Roof, by Ruskin Bond. Rusty had his first kiss in that book, and we girls who hadn't yet had our first kiss so WAITED for that chapter! (Says much for convent education, doesn't it?) I remember another of Ruskin Bpnd's characters fondly- Rikki Tikki Tavi - the mongoose who slays Nag in Jungle Book.

Funny, but I never liked my Malayalam non-detailed's in school, maybe because I thoroughly disliked my teacher, who was a nun with not the slightest idea of how to make things fun. Little wonder that I shifted to Special English in the ninth standard.
It was at this point that I read an anthology of Malayalam Short Stories in translation, and I loved the simple stories that went straight to my heart. I realised then that it was not for want of good writing that I disliked my Malayalam stories, but somehow..., I drew away from Malayalam writing, and stuck to English, not knowing my loss.

It wasn't till I joined for MA in English Literature, and had Indian Writing in English as one of my subjects, that I drew back to the Indian authors. I had Kamala Markandeya's Nectar in a Seive, Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable, Arun Joshi's The Foreigner, RK Narayan's Guide,... Girish Karnad's Hayavadana, ... and lots of poets to study- Nissim Ezekiel, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, Shiv K Kumar...

Some of my class/batchmates introduced me to Malayalam poetry and novels at this point, and I am eternally indebted to them. I read just a few in those one and a half years, but it left me wishing that my teachers in school had been at least one tenth as good as some of my seniors in University...
I read Sachidanandan's poetry and was enthralled. The one he wrote on Death still haunts me, I don't remember all the lines, and I have been trying to google it unsuccessfully. The imagery was mind boggling. One of these days when I get all the lines, that will form a separate post on my blog. I liked MT Vasudevan Nair's Manju. I have been meaning to read his Randaam Oozham, which is about the entire Mahabharata from Bhima's point of view.

I find the Aitheehiya maala a fascinating read. Its about temples and their legends and why certain rituals are followed and devotees' experiences. Totally riveting once you get into the mood for it. I liked C. Rajagopalachari's Ramayana and Mahabharat. Both of these were books I read while pregnant. My mother in law lovingly advised me to read the Ramayana to beget good offspring and I did. Not Tulsidas' or Valmiki's or Ezhuthachan's, but C Rjagoplachari's. Needless to say, she does not know of it.

You see, a slight problem I have is that, not having read too much of it in my younger days, I don't flow along with the Malayalam narrative as easily as I do with the English. And so, I don't find Malayalam as much of a pleasure to read as English. Well, I have to reserve something for my old age, don't I now? When I will be too tired to gad about, then I will sit curled in an armchair and read all the mallu novels I didn't read when I was young.

And now we come to all the Indian authors that I have enjoyed in recent times...hmmm...

Arundhati Roy- The God of Small Things. To me it was a hugely engrossing book about the greys of life. Life is definitely sometimes black, sometimes white, but sometimes it just defies compartmentalisation.. I loved Ammu and Velutha and the kids..and sympathised so with their heartbreaks in life.

Jhumpa Lahiri- I liked The Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. Some are of the opinion that the movie is slightly better than the latter book. I need to see the movie and decide.

I have always found that a movie doesn't come up to the standard of the movel. But one aberration was Water, by Bapsi Sidhwa. I haven't seen the movie, but I found the book totally stirring. My heart went out to the poor forlorn waif-widow Chuyia, and to Kalyani and Shakuntala. ( Apparently Bapsi is a Pakistani author, but I include her here, for she was born in Karachi pre Independence and so that makes her part of the then India).

Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni writes heartwarmingly of the bond between two cousins, Anju and Sudha. I read the sequel -The Vine of Desire- first, and am waiting now to read the first book- Sister of my Heart. Indian values and expectations from women are perfectly narrated in the book.

AK Ramanujan's Folk Tales from India offer a wealth of folk tales in about 20 odd Indian languages. Truly a delight to read, especially when you have a kid hungry for stories. And these stories are truly grandma's stories. You smile when you come across the ones you know, and read enjoyably the ones you don't.

And ooooh! How could I forget RK Narayan, that stalwart of Indian Writing? I loved all his works but none more than Swami and Friends. Its stupid, but every time I pass through Mysore, I wonder if Malgudi was this..., or this.... or that.... He enchanted a whole generation of Indians with his characters, who were so wholesome and lovable and empathisable..(As an aside, I love RK Laxman's The Common Man too.)

Of course, I love Tagore's Gitanjali. But Kabuliwala brings a lump to my throat every time I read it. And then of course, he's the man who gave us our JanaGanaMana.

I liked Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone more than I did his One Night at a Call Centre. (And mistake of my life- I bought another IITian, Tushar Raheja's Anything For You, Ma'am. I found him pathetic. And he says his inspiration is Wodehouse. Wodehouse hasn't stopped rolling in his grave ever since.)

And yeah, I found Kiran Desai's Inheritance of Loss truly a loss. Of the 100 odd bucks I paid for it on the pavement. I thank God I didn't dish out the Crossword/Landmark price for it. It was with great difficulty that I turned the pages.Totally drab and uninspiring and b-o-r-i-n-g. Phew! And to think I bought it without anybody recommending it! Next time I shall beware of Booker prize winners.

Well, that's enough about the ones I love. About the ones that are on my to-read list:

Upamanyu Chatterjee

Rohinton Mistry

Amitabh Ghosh

Mahasweta Devi

(Bapsi's Ice Candy Man)

Kiran Desai's Hullaballoo in the Guava Orchard

David Davidar

So many Mallu authors.....

I am not particularly keen on Salman Rushdie or Vikram Seth, tho' I know they are much in demand...

Well, that's about it! One tag down and two more to follow. I look forward to book recommendations in the comments. Please do feel free to add your lists.


Parul said...

A nice, comprehensive list you have there!

Amar Chitra Katha and Indrajal Comics - what wonderful memories they invoke :)

Did you ever read Target? That was the magazine of my teens. I loved it.

Anand S said...

Ah! since you are a fellow ACK lover, I am sure the above link would provide delightful memories.


Just Like That said...

Parul: Hey, welcome to my blog.:-)Yup, I certainly did read Target, but couldn't get my hands on too many of them, so couldn't become a major fan. You hardly get any of these comics now, do you..?

Will definitely go through Bringing up Adi, tho' I have a feeling that while I'm about it, I may be reading how he's bringing you up! ;-D

Anand: thank you for the link. Husband - an even bigger fan of Indrajal than me- is going to be eternally grateful to me. ok, to you;-)

DotMom said...

ah! amar chirta katha days.. very nostalgic. loved them too. i like Shashi Deshpande too.. I always could relate to her characters. Funny about Inheritance of Loss and God of small things. I loved the IOL and to this day think it is one of the best pieces of fiction ever written and simply could not get into GOST.

Squiggles Mom said...

Hey JLT - That was a really varied and interesting list. I haven't read all of them so will note them down for when I go to India.
Read 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry.... amazing. Oh, BTW have you read The Time Traveller's Wife? Another amazing book.

Moppet's Mom said...

Jeez, no wonder it took you so long to do the tag! :-p

Anand S said...

Well, since your husband is a big fan of Indrajal comics he may like this site too:

but i think you may not like me giving these two links becoz he may spend more time in them(i know it becoz my wife does not like me spending too much time in them)


Peridot said...

I thought you said you're not an authority on Indian authors!!!....seems just the opposite to me:-)

Just Like That said...

Dotmom: That's why each of God's creatures is unique. :-)
I know Kiran too loved IOL.
I found it a very depressing book, without anything to lift the depression from beginning to end. And while maybe that was exactly what the book was about, I prefer to read of at least some good times in between the bad. And maybe I liked GOST so much because I could relate to the mallu background a lot. :-)

S' Mom: Thanks for the recco. Will get my hands on it. I searched for Losing my Virginity while I was at Crossword, to generally browse. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it. :-(

Moppet's Mom: :-p no wonder, indeed!:-D

Anand: Well, I anyway don't get to see too much of him between his unending tv (One of these days I'm going to throw away that remote!)and net surfing. He might as well be doing something I can share in ... :-D thanks.

Peridot: HAve you read the others' tags? Was quite humbled.

Swati said...

WOrth the wait :)

WhatsInAName said...

You have me in awe now! In caps and bold :)
Havent read many of them. I think I have to retire earlier in life to read all those :)

Sunita said...

I have to remember to get back here before I go back to pick any more books.

Fuzzylogic said...

Ah,the wonderful days of ACK,Chandamama and likes!those days were the best:) You have a quite a list there. Reminds me of all the tags I have to do as well!I have been sleeping on many of them:)

dame's diary said...

My son was very excited when he saw his fav. books in your list.

rbdans said...

No wonder it took you so long :)

Just Like That said...

Swati: :-) will do yours soon...

Win: :-D lets do it our bosses and $#$%#... and :-D!

Sunita: :-) check out mad momma and some others in my list too

Fuzzy: Nothing like the good ol days.. :-) Have you done this tag? If not feel free to take it up. I didn't tag anybody, cos this tag was doing the rounds WAY back and everybody's already been tagged. But you were not around for almost a month, so...

Dame: :-D Tell him Franklin W Dixon and Alfred Hitchcock too figured....the first name should send him of into raptures, I guess..!;-)

Rbdans: :-)

choxbox said...

nice list. loved ACKs too. an uncle of mine very conviniently had a close pal who ran this huge bookshop in bangalore. spent my hols at my nani's place in bangalore and we cousins parked in the bookshop poring over ACKs and the like! those were the days!

Gauri said...

Good ole ACK days !! And I guess I hit treasure trove here - got two more links to follow up on - thanks to Anand :-)

Nice comprehensive well thought out list - like the others said - no wonder it took so long :-)

And that, coming from a person who has been tagged on this and is yet to do the tag :-p

Poppins said...

Wow this list is so worth the wait !! Thanks for doing it !