Indian literature, like India, is a combo. There are many Indian literatures. The Sahitya Akademi has 24 languages listed for its top awards. Another 35 or so come up for a different set of honours. There are more awaiting their turn to enter the Akademi’s list. I wonder how many Indians are aware that they live in a country blessed with 60 and more living literatures. Those who sing the praise of India hardly sing about the literary abundance. Perhaps no other nation in the world has so many literatures to enthral them. Not that literature has a place in the big picture. For, of what use is it to those who run nations? They notice it only when it comes in their way. Or when a bigot wants to ban a book. Actually, it is best not to be noticed at all. You never know what the politicians might see in literature. They can twist it into a weapon for mass destruction of minds. Every totalitarianism does it. Or they silence it with censorship—or by hounding and killing.
What is interesting is that each Indian literature pursues its own destiny. Each has a different past and present. These are intimately tied to the evolution and growth of the cultures the literatures represent and give expression to. Malayalam literature cannot but be an output of the Malayali ethos, even in its most dissenting or rebellious moments. Read more