W is for writers, specifically Indian writers. I asked my Facebook peeps to suggest their favorite Indian writers. The answers were enlightening.
Expats living in India suggested authors like Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh, and Arundhati Roy, while Indians suggested Jhumpa Lahiri, Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi, and Ashwin Sanghi. Of course, I have my own favorite Indian authors. Many writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Amartya Sen (one of my favorites) are Bengali. Because my site is Mumbai-focused, for this challenge, I have not ventured beyond Mumbai’s borders. You won’t read about the Taj Mahal or Kerala on this blog this month. So, I decided to focus on Mumbai-based or Mumbai-born writers. Mumbai is India’s financial capital, so it’s no surprise that many of its best writers have a corporate or banking connection. You can follow many of these writers on Twitter, where they hone their skills.
The brothers Bhagat: What Young India Wants and Complete/Convenient
Writing runs in the family here. The Bhagats are the Bronte sisters of Bombay. Except they’re brothers. And Indian. And funnier.
Chetan is the Times of India columnist and the best-selling English language author in India. Some critics dismiss Chetan’s writing as simplistic and lacking sophistication. But, Indians love reading his books and watching them become movies. His style has a staccato-like rhythm that feels natural to my American sensibilities. Where other authors spend 50 words to describe the protagonist’s hairstyle, he uses 5. As an editor, I appreciate that brevity. His book, 2 States, about cross-community love marriages, was recently released to much fanfare and earned many crores at the box office. While I enjoyed that book, and would recommend it, Chetan’s real strength is in his editorial essays. What Young India Wants is a collection of those essays. Stretching across the categories of society, politics, and youth, the essays offer an optimistic view of India’s future. His essay “My Great Indian Dream” is particularly hopeful for the country’s future.
In Complete/Convenient, younger brother Ketan explores the expat life of an NRI (nonresident Indian) couple in Sydney. Even though I’m not an NRI, as an expat, I understood many challenges the characters faced throughout the book. Many expats living in India wonder why an NRI would return after experiencing life abroad. This book answers that question. Although they share a last name, the brothers do not share the same writing style. Ketan sprinkles more Hindi into his prose, but that lends authenticity to the scenes as Indians rarely communicate in English only. For Mumbaikers, a highlight of the book is his description of the old international airport terminal. Spot on accurate.
Rohinton Mistry: A Fine Balance
Ravi Subramanian: Bankster
Amish Tripathi: The Shiva Trilogy
The first book I read in Mumbai was Immortals of the Meluha, the first book in the Shiva Trilogy by Amish. Although I found the final book, Oath of the Vayuputras, a bit lengthy and preachy, the first two novels are thrilling retellings of the Shiva story. In the books, you meet many of Hinduism’s most important gods: Shiva, Sati, Ganesh, and Karrthik. I have a friend in Bangalore named Karrthik, so I was always curious about his namesake. In Amish’s mythology, Karrthik is a fierce, loyal warrior. If you want a fun introduction to popular Hindu gods, the Shiva Trilogy is an easy read. A Hollywood producer has recently purchased the English language film rights. Keep an eye out for the trilogy at a theatre near you.
Bombay blogger shout-out: Native Goan and Mumbai resident, Corinne Rodrigues has three blogs! And, you think blogging on one site is tough! Whew! This month, on her From 7Eight blog, she is blogging books A to Z. Check out her entries.