Studying Indian Writing in English

As a school student, I had read my fair share of books authored by Indian writers. Back then, it was Narayan’s Malgudi Days, Tagore’s works, and the minor works of Vikram Seth and Anita Desai which we got to read as part of the CBSE English syllabus. Indian Writing in English, I was was introduced to this term in my first year of college. As the name suggests, the subject is Indian literature, written in the English language. So we read RK Narayan’s The Guide, Raja Rao’s Kanthapura, Mahasweta Devi’s Arjun, Arundhati Roy’s essay on the impending nuclear war and Naipaul’s idea of India.’ But there was more to Indian literature, as i was to discover later in the years to come.

College had expanded my horizon, I discovered a complete new avenue of books and authors. What began as just a subject to study for a semester, turned into a personal interest.

My handicap of not being able to read the Bengali language forced me to explore the books kept in the Indian translation in English section. It was the best thing that happened to me. I realized that I had just uncovered a cache of regional literature. I had the good fortune to read the translated works of some celebrated authors from different languages like Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi, and of course Bengali. My reading list now had Sadat Hasan Manto, Satyajit Ray, Amrita Pritam. What drew me to this genre is the ease with which I was able to place myself in the situation, the place where the events occur. Familiarity helps in understanding, accepting and reasoning the plot, the outcome is a pleasurable read and this feeling stays with the reader forever. There are a few books which left me with same sentiment.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions
This one was recommended by one of my colleagues. HIgh on the feminist ideology, this book is Mahabharata retold from Draupadi’s viewpoint.

Ashapurna Devi’s trilogy The First Promise, Subarnalata, Bakul Kotha
She is one first female writers in pre-independence era in Bengali literature. Her novels set in the same period give a unbiased view of the Bengali society of those time, her protagonists were most often the women folk, thus helped in getting their perspective of the matters.

Kalki’s Ponniyan Selvan
This is a historical novel written by Kalki during the reign of the Chola kings. As the novel was based on the lives of real people, its a real account of the society back in the Chola era. It is a record in the form of a story, told in five-parts.

Every one of these books is a wonderful read. Each protagonist lives a different life, tells a different tale. Yesterday, I added a few new authors to my reading list, and have decided to explore a new line in the same subject, poetry.




This post was written as part of the month long #septemberchallenge hosted at Everyday Gyaan.

Everyday Gyaan
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8 Responses to Studying Indian Writing in English

  1. I live in the United States and, sad to say, I had no exposure to Indian literature growing up, to the best of my memory. Why? I’ve read a number of Indian bloggers now over the last year and it has been a wonderful experience.


  2. bhashamaru says:

    A very nice write-up on Indian literature in E


  3. Sometimes, the translations make me unhappy.


  4. debosmita says:

    Why don’t you start learning to read Bengali now? 🙂 Trust me when I say the stories of Tagore, Sukumar Ray, Satyajit Ray and the likes will become so much more enjoyable.


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