Posts tagged Indian Writers
Posts tagged Indian Writers
Ruskin Bond is one of the Indian authors who writes in English; well. His English is not strained and doesn’t read ‘translated’ from a native Indian tongue — especially when writing the thoughts and emotions of Indians. Another writer with such language ease is R. K. Narayan (I wouldn’t put a Salman Rushdie in this league, not because he lacks skills in English — far from it — but his would often read pompous and ‘high-browed’). Ruskin Bond lives as a bachelor, away from the cities and on the hills, not mingling with the ‘literary crowd’ and their intellectual cocktail parties (“The cocktails usually run away with the intellect”). But he has prevailed and been prolific with an impressive profile, decked with the Sahithya Akademi to Padmashree honors. Penguin India is re-releasing some of his earlier titles and I bought a bunch.
When Darkness Falls and Other Stories is a collection of stories written by him around 2001. The book is less than hundred pages and takes an hour to complete. Most of the stories are set in and around his hometown Dehra Dun, at a time when he was young and forming. The first story, which lends the name to the book title, is also the best. It describes the life of Markham, the man with a scary face — result of an army-term accident — who no one wants to engage or endure. Put up by his longtime friend, Markham dwells in a forgotten corner of the dilapidated Empire hotel in his hometown, rotting along with the furniture through the changing times. A lifetime of resigned acceptance and dormant frustrations manifest one day (rather, night) unexpectedly, irrevocably, and an era passes in an inferno. I liked this story because it didn’t pretend to be a story; just events and experience and the rest is upto the reader.
There are other lighthearted stories like The Writer’s Bar (supposedly visited by great writers like Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham… to boost the sales) or the Monkey Trouble (Ruskin’s younger self describing the enjoyable childhood phase with a grandfather who loves to keep pets, much to the chagrin of the grandmother). The ‘ghost stories’ are the driest in content and charm, predictable and bland. But then, as one of the character says, “People can’t live without stories”. These are stories from a corner of India, events and experience told with a personal touch, in simple language. When Darkness Falls… is not the best by Ruskin Bond, but his regular is a better read than the self-professed nine-point someones in the market.
Author: Ruskin Bond
Year of Publication: 2001
Having read The Immortals of Meluha, and having liked the premise, if not the book as a whole, we bought the second book of the trilogy by Amish – The Secret of the Nagas. I will buy and read the third book as well, not because I think it is a great series, but because the story line is intriguing. Historifying mythology is an interesting attempt, and Amish has been fairly successful with the plot.
The first book of the trilogy ended with Shiva and Sati being married and Sati being “attacked” by the Nagas. The second book begins with Shiva seeking the Nagas to avenge the murder of Brihaspathi and to know why his wife is being attacked. The story proceeds through contrived twists and turns until Shiva (and the reader) realises who the Nagas actually are and why they are so interested in Sati.
The ideas are novel. The way in which the writer carefully hides the identity of the Nagas from the reader is also interesting. Through more than half the book, the reader assumes that the Nagas have something to do with snakes, and it is actually a surprise to know who they really are. ((*Spoiler alert: Why are there so many deformed human beings? Is it a side-effect of the somras? Perhaps Amish will explain it in his third book)). This is the only twist that makes the book worth reading at all. Amish’s language needs considerable tightening and he tends to go batty at places, especially when he tries to justify fantasy with what he thinks is science (radio-wave telepathy? excuse me !). His attempts at philosophy reminds me of one of P.G. Wodehouse dialogues “I’d always thought her half-baked, but now I think they didn’t even put her in the oven.” Amish attempts a Dan Brown-meets-Salman Rushdie, but lacks the native fluency of Brown or the class of Rushdie, thereby clouding an excellent plot in substandard presentation.
Author: Amish (Tripathi)
Year of Publication: 2011
What if Lord Shiva the destroyer is human, who lived thousands of years ago and fought great battles to establish the balance between superpowers of allegorical Good and Evil? What if there did exist in reality a Rama Rajya – as prescribed by King Rama of Ayodhya, but practiced by the people of the Indus valley Civilization? What if Manu is originally from SangamTamil, the kingdom of the Pandyas (an etymological origin for the word pundit), the present day Tamil Nadu. What if owing to some great calamity (ocean engulfing vast Southern lands) along with a select few pundits he has gone up to North until Harappa and Mohan-ja-daro, the cradle of the Indus Valley Civilization? What if Brahaspathi is a chief scientist of an advanced research laboratory with nice coherent scientific ideas and rational outlook? What if he could brew the divine nectar or immortality, amirtham (amruth for Northies) or somarasa in his laboratory almost as a modern day organic titration? What if the somarasa neutralizes oxidants – the toxins – from our body and prevents oxidation, thereby aging…There are enough interesting thoughts and suggestions that engage you in The Immortals of Meluha, the first book of a promised trilogy (2nd is The Secret of the Nagas) by Amish, which I picked on a lark from the local book store.
The Immortals of Meluha is neither commendable for its plot nor for the language (just better than passable English - like mine), but definitely recommendable as an engaging page turner with enough Hindu mythology to rediscover and philosophy to ruminate, rue or ignore. The story is set around 1900 BC in India, known then a Sapt Sindh, the land of the seven rivers. The Indus Valley civilization of Harappa and Mohan-ja-daro are the Meluhas or Suryavanshis, while the dwellers of present day Tibet, Bihar and nearby regions are the Chandravanshis. One tribe is very advanced in their thinking and technology , with organized roads, sanitation and drainage (required for an interesting reason), almost immortal but captive to their rules. The other tribe is not so advanced, disorganized as a civilization, unbounded by rules, mortals with diseases and strife and freedom. Both believe a savior or leader from outside their tribe will come to lead them to victory in a definitive battle to vanquish the other tribe. And then there were the Nagas, vile and willy, from a far off netherworld to complicate the issue. The leader arrives from elsewhere (Kailash or Himalayas), takes sides, wins the battle. But did Good actually triumph? With names of the characters resembling their mythological originals and their deeds not too far off from the myths, the plot meanders after a while. Taking up Gods as characters also has its limitations. Romance between Shiva and Sati (Parvathi) is stinky clean without a kiss. Thankfully, Shiva is human and humane, amorous and valorous, smokes pot and fights to kill. If I can devour all the predictably racy and many-a-times half-way-through-rudderless page-turners of James Rollins, I would definitely read the other parts of Amish’s. At least the yarn is closer to my abode.
Having read the book, I searched the web for further details. Bad decision. First, I looked at the nice YouTube Advertisement video for the book. Then I stumbled on a series of videos presenting an interview with Amish [Start here]. That interview was a definite let down for me. According to that interview, once, he didn’t want to enter the temple his wife went to (why should a ‘true atheist’ refrain from entering temples that should anyway have no Gods?) but now he is a zealous convert with Lord Shiv(a) as fav-deity, wearing the rudraksha and so on. May be I shouldn’t blame him when the interview asks questions on “how to end world violence,” assuming the answer is in the book or with the author. I liked the refreshing outlook he brought in the book with Shiva as a human with some novel interpretations of our scriptures and puranas. He cites Underworld by Graham Hancock for his Manu interpretations. He even argued nicely about the plausibility but futility of an ideal society. And then he goes on to become a ‘staunch theist’ — at least in the interviews — not to ruffle any religious feathers. I don’t mind such incongruity in humans. We are carbon-based islands of capricious consciousness. But with such image-bursting information about the author, perhaps done as a promotion gig, the book I read isolates author-less.
Book: The Immortals of Meluha
Author: Amish (Tripathi)
Year of Publication: 2010