Although it is mainly diasporic writers who have made Indian English writing global, and have translated works into many other languages, there are many others ignored by the media, the government and other establishments.

by Aju Mukhopadhyay

tagoreWhat is Indian English Literature?

Indian English Literature is the work of Indian-origin poets and writers writing in English, and living anywhere around the globe. They usually have similar mindsets, especially when writing about, or referring to India. Meenakshi Mukherjee has said that it is born out of Indian and English parentage–thus twice- born1. Another writer, Maria Tymoczko, thinks that it is born out of one culture and expressed in another2. Their opinions carry the idea of translation, but it may be said that there is exactly no question of translation as such, because when the creation is one’s own and not an independent version or expression of another’s creative production, albeit in a language not one’s own, the creative product is a trans-lingual/cultural endeavor. When an Indian writes his Indian experience in a foreign language it can be said to be a trans-cultural creative process. The history of this expanding literature has covered more than 200 years.

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How-to-Fight-Islamist-TerrorFighting Islamist terror is not the book’s focus and, although both main characters have lively libidos, sex is not a particular concern either. In a Danish setting that seems to reflect Khair’s own role as a lecturer at Aarhus University, friends from the Indian subcontinent, one Indian, one Pakistani, move into the flat of an older Muslim, Karim.

Tabish KhairLike you, Modiji, my Sanskrit and Hindi tutor was a member of the RSS. He would put on his khaki shorts and go for lathi practice. He would also turn up, unfailingly, for Id dinners at our place, pointing out that he only ate at the houses of old Muslim families as they knew the value of cleanliness and hospitality. He would add that he could hardly eat with most Hindu families either, because “people have forgotten the old ways and only picked up the worst of the new ones”.

Given this sharp precipice of literary creativity, which allowed me little toehold, largely because my difference could not be countenanced in standard class or post/colonial terms, I latched on to the odd book that I could relate to. The most enabling was VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas. I picked up a second-hand copy from a roadside stall. I was doing my Inter at the local college in Gaya. I doubt I had heard about Naipaul. Even if I had it must have been fleetingly. What struck me was the context — provincial and seemingly unstructured — in which Mr Biswas struggles to live and write. I could identify with it; identify much more with that Caribbean space than even with RK Narayan’s Malgudi, which exuded a suggestion of structure and calm that was often missing in my small town space.