A week ago, I put up the guest post Lost in Translation. Krithiga (Ms.K), the author of that subject matter had a few reasons why she did not consider Indian Writing worthy of being read. I am going to try and work my way through some of her reasons here.
She said that Indian Writing confines itself to a narrow frame of reference, namely the immigrant experience (written largely for the emigrant population from Lady India, I guess, so that it would validate their choices. Yes, yes, you are okay). Firstly, there is the problem of the label Indian Writing. For purposes of convenience, to facilitate my reading choices, I always interpret this label as writing of an Indian. Because if the label Indian Writing were considered as anything less inclusive, it becomes awfully confusing. And the way it is presently bandied about in conversation (and I care to mention that these are the common conversations between people who like to read, not to be assumed as literary conversations, given that literary is an equally contentious descriptor), Indian Writing acquires the narrow meaning of works in English written by an Indian, living abroad at least some part of the year! Therefore the perception that the frame of reference is narrow. Also to blame, in part, are the displays in Indian bookstores where the prominent titles under the Indian Writing category consist of 300-paged books all similarly clothed in the fabric of the exotic. Sometimes, at such sights, there is a strong instinct to disown spices and run away from snake charmers. But, of course, there is more to Indian Writing than all that. Surely, it is the least you can expect from a country that understood civilization much before most of the world.
K also said that the structure and flow of the writing is at fault. At least, it is not as smooth as that of a native English writer. Isn't that but natural? Isn't that also an advantage? If a language were used in the same way by everyone (theoretically), then its possibilities of opening up vistas of the mind would be confined to the way such new ideas are shaped into the cultured form of the native writer. However, when a writer uses a foreign language, the narrative offers itself up to be shaped by a culture and a language that have met in the lush ground of the writer's experiences and observations. The result is bound to be unexpected. Indeed the unexpected would eventually become the object of populist copying and lo, a genre would have worked its way out from the ether. Then it will be time for K and I and others like us to scream in horror at the deluge and run.
So K, I am tempted to offer names and say this is what is good Indian Writing. But, reading choices don't work that way. You are K and I am the letter that follows - close enough, yet not quite. And my good will differ from your good. I shall point you to two books, both anthologies, both on India centred writing: History of Indian Literature in English and The Picador Book of Modern Indian Literature . I think that they offer a good sample of this country's literature. Take your pick. Maybe then, ambivalent will be an adjective you will agree to.