Monday, February 2, 2009

Poverty sells!!

Readers of the developed world are caught up in a time wrap

The last couple of months have suddenly put India into the literally centerstage. If the saga was started by the awarding of Booker Prize to Aravind Adiga, its culmination literally happened through the Oscar nomination for A R Rahman. No doubt, foreign labels and tags on indigenous products have always been perceived to enhance the acceptability of the same at home. All the more reason why artists are increasingly re-orienting their creation to suit such recognitions. It is also interesting to note that creators of best-selling titles and winners of world’s most prestigious awards are those Indians who reside some thousands of kilometres away from India and away from the ghetto on which they love to write and make fortune. Without even an iota of apprehension I can rightfully claim that as a nation, we have no dearth of such talents. Residing outside allows them to easily connect with a huge readership base who are typically caught up in a time wrap. Western readers usually love to have fascinating reading on problems of third world countries. So there is hardly any market for content pertaining to rising India and its economic, social and cultural transformation. And with most of the recognition going towards themes on disturbing realities, there's hardly been any effort towards changing the same. Rarely any Indian writer sitting abroad has produced a positive and bright image of India. No doubt there have been some great pieces of literary work and stupendous achievements but almost all in the same league. Take for instance, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, which talks about post-Independence national election of 1952, inter-sectarian hostility, caste-divide and lot more on India’s distorted social structure. Similarly, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry talks about India's post independence societal changes and about India’s caste-divide and employment problems while his book Family Matters talks about the predicaments Indian Parsis face here thanks to corruption and communalism which is an inherent part of Indian system. In the novel, The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri describes nothing but the dilemma faced by Bengali immigrants in the US and the book eventually received huge brickbats from the expatriate Bengali community for portraying them wrongly. Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss depicts the insurgency in the Himalayas by the Gorkhali people and its impact on the country. Even this one came for major criticism from critics and especially from inhabitants of Kalimpong for rendering negative stereotyped image of Indian Nepalese. Moreover, Booker winning novel, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is all about corruption, poverty and exploitation in India.

The problem seems twofold. Firstly, India does not have decent platforms for portraying one's literary work, and neither do we have awards in the likes of Booker or Pulitzer. The domestic market for literary work is still nascent. Secondly, as stated earlier, people sitting abroad find it easy to maintain the status quo by writing on issues that have higher chances of acceptability rather than writing upon the latent shift India is experiencing whose acceptability in the West might not be guaranteed. In the given scenario, if the literary work has to present the real picture of the world we live-in, then the Indian writers sitting abroad should assert more of transforming India than depicting an India which was a reality a few decades back. If the readers of the developed world are caught is a time wrap, it is our responsibility to break it. But then would the NRI writers love to do that??



  1. I would like to welcome you to my blog :

  2. I dont know why white people want to interfere in the "so called" third world countries..

    Fourth PLANE

  3. Slum swap could be a good initiative to rehabilitate slum dwellers in a phased manner. Planning habitations as per people-centric needs and in care of human rights organizations, this will prove economical too.