A few years ago, during his visit to Cornell University, U. R. Ananthamurthy asked a group of professors and doctoral students why vernacular Indian literary texts so rarely receive the kind of careful attention critics give to major texts in European and American literature. Emphasising the need for extended textual readings as well as cross-regional analysis of the literary traditions in India, he called for textual comparisons that highlight similarities and differences in the way common themes and similar social situations are treated. He argued that several strands of cultural and social influence run through Indian literary texts, strands that are impossible to see clearly if our focus remains confined to the works of any one linguistic or regional tradition.

Suhayl_smallSuhayl Saadi was born in Yorkshire in 1961 of Afghan-Pakistani parents, and grew up in Glasgow, becoming a medical doctor. He is a widely published novelist, dramatist and poet, and the author of a short story collection, The Burning Mirror (2001), shortlisted for the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. His radio and stage plays include The Dark Island, broadcast on Radio 4 in 2004, Saame Sita (2003), The White Cliffs (2004), and The Garden of the Fourteenth Moon (2006).

He has written articles and essays for several national newspapers, and song lyrics for classical and folk-rock combos. He has co-edited three anthologies, and is co-director of an arts production company, Heer Productions Ltd., which established the Pakistani Film, Media and Arts Festival in the UK. (Suhayl Saadi above, photo by Basharat Khan)

‘Kaaba’

Zuleikha glanced both ways. It were as though she were commencing a Muslim prayer, a namaaz, which back in the cold rain of Glasgow, would have been normal, routine, even, but which here, in this assertively Roman Catholic country, seemed almost blasphemous. She tried to conjure up the face of her son, Daoud, but could not. She sprang up, tried to breathe. Zuleikha was a scientist, not a penitent.

As soon as she emerged into the room, she realized that the structure down which she had been descending was neither a well nor a tower, but an enormous chimney whose upper portion had been removed and on whose hearth she had been standing. She brushed her clothes down as well as she could. She was in a small, low-ceiling’d room whose walls seemed to have been whitewashed fairly recently.

crastaAmong the bunch of famous Indian novelists and writers, Richard Crasta‘s name might not be as widely recognized as that of a Seth or a Rushdie, but few would come close to him in being funny, witty, satirical and daring–all at the same time. If you don’t believe me, I can get American legendary novelist Kurt Vonnegut to  vouch for him who found his first novel, The Revised Kama Sutra, “very funny”.  After Khushwant Singh (who is 90 plus old but still active as a below the belt heavy hitter), if any Indian writer has pushed the boundaries of satirical writing, with dollops of sexual humour (and satirical writing on a lot of other serious stuff) in his own distinctive style, it’s Richard. But, in fairness, his writing is more than that, and multifaceted, covering areas as wide as, in his own words, “autobiography, humor, satire, political critique, sexual critique, and literary criticism.”

by Suhayl Saadi

SuhaylIn the early 1990s, when I began to write fiction, charting the confluence between realism and mysticism, I’d been reading widely for a number of years and had joined a writers’ group, but apart from occasional performances in bars and arts centres, I’d had no connection with published writers or the wider arts world.

The furore attending the publication, in 1988, of Salman Rushdie’s novel, ‘The Satanic Verses’ had more to do with metahistory, geopolitics and the social class demographics of migration into Britain than it did with either theology or fiction, while the only other visible ‘British Asian’ writer in the UK was the talented realist writer, Hanif Kureishi. Culturally illiterate, all-white commissioning editors in London seemed hungry for more Rushdie, for subaltern neo-Orientalism and the textual affirmation of colonial dominance.

by Zafar Anjum

I had interviewed Malaysian novelist, Tan Twan Eng, sometime ago for India Se. I am reproducing the full interview here for your reading pleasure. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Tan Twan Eng-The Garden of Evening MistsYou are a lawyer by profession. How did you decide to become a writer? Were you inspired by some other writers or you genuinely felt that you had something to express?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer since I began reading children’s books at the age of four or five, without realising how difficult it is to write. But as I grew older I became aware that it’s almost impossible to make a living from it, and so I decided to read Law when the time came to choose a career. I don’t regret it, because it’s given me an awareness of the importance of writing with clarity, and it’s made me a more disciplined writer. As I used to be an intellectual property lawyer, it’s also been useful whenever I have to read the publisher’s contracts.

by Fakrul Alam

The very first time I heard Shah Abdul Karim’s heart-stirring song, “Age Ki Shundor Din Kataitam” I was transported to my childhood years in Dhaka‘s Ramkrishna Mission Road and the Durga Puja days we used to revel in then. Karim remembers lyrically “how happily” he and other village youths would spend their childhood days, “Hindus and Muslims, /Singing Baul and Ghetu songs all together!” He goes on to narrate how he and his friends would listen to Ghazi, Baul and Ghetu songs during the monsoons as they raced their boats or watch jatras being staged in Hindu households and how politics and/or religion would never come in the way. He concludes wistfully: “I keep thinking: we’ll never be happy like then./Though I once believed happiness was forever/Day by day things get worse and worse/Which path will distraught Karim now follow?”