3 March, 2021
India has had a rich literary history, and we have some fantastic books, some of which have also been made into movies. Perhaps, with our Prime Minister also going with a #vocalforlocal clarion call on all fronts, maybe it’s time to explore the Indian authors. That is if you already haven’t done so. From India's various regional languages to English, Indian authors have excelled with some great books, some of which have also won International literary awards.
The authors have taken inspiration from our history, the diverse culture, their observations and experiences, and sometimes from their flights of fancy. Depending on the genre you prefer to read, you have more than enough topics to pick and choose from.
Palace of Illusions
Almost everyone in India is aware of the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Many authors have been fascinated by these epics and have drawn inspiration from them to create their own fictions based on them. A very popular one in this genre comes from award-winning author Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni. When it comes to Indian mythology, we know about the Palace of Illusions from Mahabharata. It was the one built for Draupadi, the queen of Indraprastha, an unparalleled one with many illusions.
The most famous anecdote about the palace of illusions happens to be about the fall of Duryodhana, who fell into a water pool while trying to walk on it thinking it is the floor. While the epic Mahabharata is told from Sage Vyasa’s perspective, this book is purely written from Draupadi’s perspective. What were her wishes, thoughts, and challenges in life? How did she manage to live such an extraordinary life with five husbands or undergo such humiliation? Did she have some hidden secrets that we were not aware of? To understand this epic from this incredible lady’s point of view, read through this wonderfully woven novel.
R K Narayan is a well-known name among world-famous Indian authors. His stories were always so close to heart and looked as if they happening in and around our town. They were simple and yet explored the various facets of the changing India of his times. The Guide is one such story that even got adapted into a very successful movie starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman. This novel was written in 1958 and talked about a small-town guide called Raju into a spiritual guru. But the journey has so many twists and turns, and even romance, heartbreak, greed, etc., all rolled into it. This book is an all-time Indian classic novel that never ceases to impress.
A Suitable Boy
Vikram Seth is another popular Indian author who has risen to international fame, and this book was one of the most popular among his works. This one got adapted into a TV series by the same name by Mira Nair and was aired on BBC One in the United Kingdom. It is available for watching through Netflix in many other countries, including India. Set in the post-partition new Independent India, the book narrates the story of four families. It revolves around searching for a suitable boy for her younger daughter Lata, by Mrs Rupa Mehra, from the Mehras. The Kapoors, the Khans, and the Chatterji's form the other three families, and there are many interesting characters and unexpected twists and turns that make this an engaging read.
The White Tiger
Published in 2008, Aravind Adiga's novel won the Booker Prize that same year and became a big international hit. The book is a narration by a village boy Balram Halwai, and is retrospective in nature and provides some insights into the class struggle in the new and globalized India, with shades of dark humour. It provides a refreshing take on the social disparities seen from this man’s view as he moves to Delhi from his poverty-stricken life in the village and works as a chauffeur for the elite.
The Inheritance of Loss
Another Booker Prize-winning novel from India, Kiran Desai, published in 2006, centres around two characters Biju and Sai. Biju is an illegal immigrant into the US, and Sai is an orphan living in Kalimpong, in the mountains. In that sense, the narrative takes you seamlessly through the lives of the characters in New York and the Himalayan foothills in West Bengal. The twist in the tale is between the linking of these seemingly totally unrelated characters and their lives.
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