Friday, September 2, 2011

Fiction is better than fact

Here is a collection of “new Indian writing” that defies the present state of Indian writing: its fiction is more interesting than its non-fiction, though there is less of it.

Urban Voice 4:
New Indian Writing
Editor: Sunil K Poolani
Leadstart; Rs 150; Pp 184
For instance, here is Ramachandra Guha with an essay titled “Social Banditry”, on re-reading historian E J Hobsbawm’s classic, Bandits. Hobsbawm makes a distinction between ordinary criminals and “social bandits”, who are drawn from the peasantry and have local support; Guha measures India’s Maoists against this definition. Match? Yes, he says, but also no.

Aakar Patel writes on “The Ugly Indian Middle Class”. The class has no “culture”, he says, and offers, among many other things, numbers and examples relating to classical music events (audience size and sophistication, ticket prices, financial support) in Indian and Western cities. Kankana Basu, in “Gone Away”, tells of the epidemic of lonely senior citizens in India, with children lovingly raised but now living in other cities or other countries.

Wider family bonds are dissolving, says Basu, and the price will eventually be paid by the children.

Shashi Warrier in “So Betrayed” recounts a chance meeting with a Bhopal gas survivor who tells how the tragedy changed his family’s lives. “Bush killed foreigners. Our government kills its own,” Warrier concludes.

Tishani Doshi in “A City Called Madras” nostalgises about genteel Madras before it became brash Chennai.

Full review here Business Standard

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