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A new breed of authors takes India by storm

Meet India’s newest Literary Craftsmen

(Also read Recent Non Fiction Reads to Understand India)

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Storytelling as an art form, is as ancient as India itself. And like everything else that is uniquely Indian, Indian storytelling refuses to be generalized.

Indian Food, Indian Language, Indian Culture, Indian Movies…each has a never ending variety. Attempting to generalize or categorize Indian food as ‘too spicy’ or too anything, will result in missing out a large majority of India’s cooking.

Indian writing styles previously ranged from Rushdie (melodramatic) to Lahiri (Minimalist) to popular fiction (Chetan Bhagat) to historical fiction( Amitav Ghosh).

Much like five day long cricket matches have been obscured by the shorter, condensed 1 day contests, so too has Indian writing evolved from the marathon writings of V.S. Naipaul (or Vikram Seth) to shorter, easier to digest works.

Rather than focus on those all time greats (Rushdie, Seth, Lahiri..), this post will discuss newer, emerging authors.

The diversity is almost impossible to keep up with. This list is simply a list of my recent favorites.

Recent Fiction Works from Indian Authors

These are not in any particular order. As I alluded to above, these are just some of my personal favorites.

Salman Rushdie meets Jhumpa Lahiri — is how I would classify Roy’s writing style.

This particular story is about the protagonist trying to understand his mother’s rebellious spirit (rebellious against Indian conservative expectations of women), as well as his own abandonment.

The story starts with a boy’s formative years, which include the disappearance of his mother (sometime in the 1930s). However, this individual’s story transpires amidst the backdrop of British Colonial rule in India (as well as the rise of Nazi Germany in the 30s and 40s).

Wonderful sentence composition, with some sentences that leave you spellbound. From a Booker nominated author.

Note: This was my first Anuradha Roy book. Since then, I have devoured some of these other titles (not a single one disappoints!):

  1. The Folded Earth
  2. The Earth Spinner
  3. An atlas of impossible longing

India is home to millions of ‘invisible’ people.

These are the daily workers — the people who clean our houses, our toilets, maintain our gardens, wash and iron our clothes, massage our bodies in the comfort of our homes. We see them, yet we don’t. We wouldn’t skip a beat in replacing one of them, if they were to leave or meet with a mishap.

Each story speaks to one such individual performing one such chore.

The ‘kaamwali’ (house help) among the many others, will bring back memories of growing up in India. Each individual’s story is poignant and will leave you with a sense of respect for these invisible souls.

A legendary 186-carat diamond, powerful kingdoms that fight over it (including the British empire). India, Persia, Afghanistan, England — and the men and women who possessed it, all find characterization in this part fiction, part fact, story by Sundaresan.

As empires rose and fell, the Kohinoor remained the most sought after gem in mankind’s history.

We know little of the man who wrote the famed Kama Sutra. This is a fictional account of this man’s story, told in a completely captivating manner.

The characters range from Vatsya’s mother to the women that he had deep relationships with, including princesses and famous courtesans of the time. Nayantara’s character will leave readers mesmerized.

Definitely Not Safe for Work, vastly imaginative and definitely worth a read.

Suri presents India in a pre-apocalyptic story.

India and Pakistan planning to resort to mutual nuclear attack. India is in chaos; prices have skyrocketed, most communications infrastructure has broken down.

In this setting, is a love triangle — Jaz (a Muslim), Sarita (Hindu) and Karun.

Karun is missing, amidst all the chaos within Mumbai. Jaz, who is in lvoe with Karun, is on the lookout for him. So is Sarita.

This hunt takes place in the backdrop of The Super Devi, a super hero that has resonated with Mumbai’s Hindu majority, but not necessarily with all minorities.

Hindi’s greatest authors, ranging from Premchand, Sobti, Bhandari, Uday Prakash among others, these stories provide a deep look inside India’s patriarchal society, caste system sufferers, India-Pak Partition and more.

These stories will make your heart weep for what daily life looks like for several Indians.

Masterfully told story of what we may consider a ‘small’ , noneveent (the explosion of a car bomb).

Two boys are instantly killed, and their friend is injured. Survivors and families of the deceased coping with grief. The paths taken by the families of the survivors makes up the story, as also the lives of the actual terrorists.

Karan delves into the psyche of the terrorists, and how young, impressionable boys are driven to build explosive devices. An intriguing study, as these terrorists themselves have little idea of the purpose of what they are doing and the lives they will ruin forever.

S Rangarajan, is a name synonymous with Tamil literature.

13 stories of different types are part of this collection. Ranging from humor to horror, to thrilling suspense stories, this is a worthy collection.

Subbu, the protagonist, has a desire to learn about the mystic Aghoris, a real life sect of Sadhus found in Northern India.

Thus begins a journey of fantastic and other worldly experiences. It is said that the Aghoris experience things humans cannot.

The Aghoris follow a difficult path that few humans can conceive of — only to find their way out of darkness (Ghori means darkness and A-Ghori — is the absence of darkness). A fantastic, if fictional, look into the lives of India’s mysterious Aghoris.

Amish Tripathi

Amish’s writings have taken India by storm. Some of his books are being turned into series / mini-series.

The Ram Chandra series books

Ram, Sita and Raavan — is the order of this Amish Trilogy.

When I finished the first book, Ram, I asked myself how the rest of the trilogy could be better.

On finishing the second book, Sita, one feels that, indeed, the sequel was at least as good, maybe even better.

When I finally read Raavan, I realized that it was possibly the best of the lot (at least, my personal favorite). Casting a villian in a light that few would; showing his weaknesses and personal struggles and what led him to choose the path of violence, Raavan is unlike any story in the actual Ramayana.

Each of the 3 books portrays a completely different personality; hence you see the same story told from three different perspectives. The masterful Amish manages to keep all three special and unique in his own way.

Some haunting moments from the book…(without ruining the story)

  • Ram on seeing Sita — finally finds the thread that would hold all life’s beads together..
  • The Elephant Death Scene — The scene of the maternal head of the elephant tribe passing away, with the baby elephant tugging away hopelessly, was for me, a beautiful piece of writing.

The Shiva Trilogy

What if Lord Shiva started out as a mere mortal, but attained supremehood through the choices he made in his life?

Amish’s take on Shiva is a blend of mythology and fantasy.

For purists, the writing may not seem as true to form as some of the writers listed above, but Tripathi has a way to captivate the reader.

As one reader commented, Even though childish for the most part, the child in us can not help but grow to like Shiva.

These works range from Indian Mythological characters to the Partition to Casteism to Sexuality to Terrorism to Apocalyptic world-ending incidents.

True to Indian Mythology, a variety of Gods and Goddesses find their way into several (but not all) of these works, sometimes in a part humorous vein (The Super Devi).

By no means comprehensive, this list is just a few of my own recent favorites.

Do you have one you would like to see on this list? Also read Non Fiction books to understand India.



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