In the recent past some IWE has figured in my reading list. Shelfari does not recognise two of these books. In one case it is the double ignominy of being published by Rupa and not winning any awards and in the second case it is only the latter. (Aside: Always felt like I was buying underwear when I bought any Rupa publications.)
I stole Ravi Subramanian’s ‘If God was a Banker’ from Toinks. Having read (and enjoyed) Vidya Srinivasan’s No Onions, No Garlic, I figured the jaat might have some literary talent. Well, I was wrong. The Mumbai based author, an IIM graduate with several years experience in retail banking per the blurb, is not very googleable for a good reason. I would not admit to writing this book either. The book did start quite engagingly – the two protagonists and their just out of MBA aspirations do ring true. Then the authors own MBA origins begin to show. He has copy pasted all the banking scandals of the past two decades into the book and he has added some sex into the mix in order to make sure it sells. So read it if you didn’t read the papers in the past 10 years or if you are really hard up for the written word. Else skip it I say.
Chinnamani’s World, acquired more legitimately at the Delhi Book Fair, is a better read. I’m not sure if everyone will enjoy it as much. The author teaches at Ambedkar College which is a stone’s throw from my home in Bangalore. The story is set in ‘Indira’ Slum – a mildly fictionalised version of the slum near home. The very one which was the forbidden land that lay across the parthenium fields from our layout. Lots of Tamil transliterations, which make the book enjoyable . The story (told in the third person) is of Chinnamani and his family, friends and life in the slum. Although the subject matter could be grim and there is much scope for sanctimonious pomposity the author does not succumb. So all in all – recommendation to read.
I don’t know if Kiran Desai really qualifies as Indian in the same way as Ravi Subramanian and Mukunda Rao. Her pedigree shows in the book. Impeccable writing, beautiful imagery and much style in the book but she does not tell a simple story. She unfailingly brings out the mean, defeated and frustrated aspects of the lives of each of her main characters. Perhaps she was trying to be ‘accurate’ , perhaps humanity does have such small motivation, but if that is the reality, I for one want to escape it. Lets put it this way – despite the quality of her craft, I enjoyed Mr. Subramanian’s oeuvre more!