Some Indian readers may still revere the Booker prize. Fifteen years ago, it represented the zenith of commercial possibilities for Indian writers working in English — prestige, tens of thousands in foreign currency, a welcome bump in sales, an international audience. There were a couple of obstacles: you had to write something called ‘literary fiction’ and write it well enough to convince inscrutable, whimsical judges. Still, for a time, it seemed like just being Indian was enough. Aravind Adiga won, man, you told yourself. Aravind Adiga.
But by then Chetan Bhagat had also happened. And, some years later, Amish Tripathi. You could, if you cooked up the right mix of ancient values in an urban setting, or urban values in an ancient setting, rely on the domestic market alone to get rich. You didn’t even have to write well.