What ails Indian writing ?

The Man Booker award to Adiga is a fine statement of affirmation of Indian writing. There have been previous winners too from India. But the Indian writers who have spent bulk of their lives in India still fail to fire the imagination of readers in the world.

Their stories are engagingly told and capture a time and place perfectly well. But the themes are not universal enough to connect to everybody. The writers lack the penetrating insight of a Naipaul, who harshly throws a searchlight into our souls. They do not have the suave urbanity and haunting themes of emotional loss of a Kundera. They do not provide the searing intensity of a Coetzee or the subtle romanticizing of a Mahfouz.

I think this happens because Indians grow up in protected environments. They live within defined boundaries and fail to explore the limits of their lives in relationships and in their own internal journeys. The society also tries its best to see that any behaviour or attitude beyond its five thousand years of past is smacked hard. So when an Indian writes and tries to plumb his depths of experience , he falls short of capturing deep, eternal truths and the unvarnished realities. There are a few notable exceptions in Indian languages however.

It does not help that the country lacks a culture of reading except in a few places.

There is a long way to go for Indian writing to flourish internationally.


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