RK Narayan

Friday - - Leisure -

Of­ten touted as In­dia’s an­swer to Chekov, RK Narayan was one of the early wave of In­dian writ­ers who first in­tro­duced the world to the genre of In­dian writ­ing in English. This 1943 book is a col­lec­tion of 32 short sto­ries fo­cus­ing on the pre-in­de­pen­dence fic­tional South In­dian town of Mal­gudi, and it vividly cap­tures the sights and sounds of ev­ery­day life in In­dia.

Known for his grip­ping cliffhanger end­ings, Narayan crowds his pages with char­ac­ters who range from the af­fa­ble and en­dear­ing to the down­right de­spi­ca­ble.

Adapted into a hugely suc­cess­ful and much-loved Eight­ies In­dian TV se­ries, his imag­i­nary world will draw you in with its sim­ple hu­mour and con­ver­sa­tional style, and never let you go.

by Vikram Seth

With all the hus­band-hunt­ing, class di­vides and fam­ily in­trigue, Seth’s master­piece could be a Jane Austen novel – if it weren’t set in 1950s In­dia, that is. LataMehra’s mother is on a quest to find her daugh­ter the per­fect match, but Lata has ideas of her own re­gard­ing mar­riage and love, and so do her ex­tended en­tourage of rel­a­tives. Set against the so­cio-po­lit­i­cal up­heaval of a newly in­de­pen­dent In­dia – span­ning from par­ti­tion to the first gen­eral elec­tions – and touch­ing on themes of com­mu­nal strife and the strug­gle for gen­der equal­ity, Seth cap­tures a sweep­ing, visu­ally rich, satir­i­cal snap­shot of the sub­con­ti­nent and its in­hab­i­tants find­ing their feet.

The lov­able, idio­syn­cratic char­ac­ters and the un­adorned lan­guage rife with wry wit are why peo­ple con­tinue to re­turn to this 20th-cen­tury clas­sic, de­spite its mono­lithic pro­por­tions (at 1,349 pages it’s one of the long­est English­language nov­els pub­lished). The much-awaited se­quel to this 1993 book, A Suit­able Girl is set to be re­leased in 2016. ac­count of twins Ra­hel and Estha’s childhood in 1960s com­mu­nist Ker­ala and its de­cay­ing but rel­e­vant caste sys­tem.

Tragic events, be­gin­ning with the ac­ci­den­tal death of their vis­it­ing Bri­tish cousin So­phie Mol, cru­elly crush the pro­tag­o­nists’ in­no­cence and up­turn their young lives.

Roy’s in­ven­tive and orig­i­nal writ­ing style – bro­ken nar­ra­tive and tac­tile im­agery redo­lent with sym­bol­ism and made-up words – is di­vi­sive; ir­ri­tat­ing to some, in­ge­nious to oth­ers, but it con­structs with al­most painfully vivid clar­ity the thoughts, hopes and fears that in­habit the minds of chil­dren. At its heart is an elo­quent trib­ute to love – the one thing that en­dures de­spite any­thing. Evoca­tive, pas­sion­ate and drip­ping with im­agery, if you make it to the fi­nal twist, this is the sort of book that will haunt you for weeks.


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