Translated from Dainik Jagaran. This is a nice article about the farce that goes by the name of English writing in India. Some Indians have caught on to the trick of making money from the rich Westerners by pissing on their own land and culture.
Literature up for Sale
S. Shankar comments on English writing in India
Long back, well-known Hindu writer Narendra Kohli translated a story written by Khushwant Singh and sent it to a Hindi publication. Its editor returned it with the comment that “We are not into the habit of publishing this kind of low-quality literature.”
Actually, the glamour and prestige that has become associated with the English language in India often manages to obscure the ugly reality of its English writers. The truth is that the kind of stuff our English writers churn out is carefully crafted by them not to serve the taste of Indians but of foreigners. The English writers of India get acceptance and approval from the Westerns only if they affirm through their work a strange and twisted kind of image about India that the foreigners love to promote.
Recently, Arvind Adiga has been given the Booker Prize, the UK’s most popular literary award, for his book “The White Tiger.” Adiga received the prize money of about one hundred thousand US dollars because the Booker panel seems to have been mightily impressed by his story about a killer servant. According to the head of the panel Michael Portilo, after reading the novel, his beliefs about India have changed and he got to know about the “real India.” Let us see what this “real India” is that Adiga’s novel has allegedly revealed.
In the beginning of the novel, its hero Balram says: “Before starting a story, there is a tradition in our country to kiss some god’s arse. But which god’s arse? There are many options. Muslims have only one god. Christians have three. But we Hindus have three crore and sixty lakh gods, any of whose arse we can choose for kissing.”
This way, it has been alleged that instead of reciting mantras or slokas such as Saraswati Vandana, Mangla-charan or Ganpati Vandana, the only tradition Hindus have before starting any work is to “kiss some god’s arse.” Now tell me, which Indian-language publication will publish this kind of trash even if it gets translated?
Our English writers in their greed for awards, prize money and Western approval vend a distorted and perverted shape of India. Indian citizens should be under no illusion about the “achievements” of Indian English writers in receiving Western awards. There is a major role of lobbying by agents in securing these. But the main thing is that many English writers do a kind of “formula writing” that is tailor-made to attract the Westerners and pamper their self-conceit. The kind of strange facts and spin about India that they portray in their writing are clearly not meant for consumption by the Indians. These are actually meant to lure foreign personalities who hold the key to Western awards and prize money.
This tendency of our English writers has been scrutinized in detail by M. Prabha in her book “The Waffle of the Toffs: A Socio Cultural Critique of Indian Writing in English.” According to her, English writing in India is a purely commercial business that is run by a small but incestuous group of Indian con-artists. Their output has absolutely no originality or creativity. Instead, it is deliberately stuffed with “saleable” material.
“Time” magazine has carried a two-page report about Arvind Adiga bagging the Booker prize. Nothing has been said in it about the literary quality of Adiga’s book except that it reveals the real face of Indian poverty, shows how meaningless all talks about economic development and advancement of India actually are and proves how competent Adiga’s agent is that he got him this award. But even the Times report calls the book a commercial success, not a literary one. The only comment it makes about the plot and writing style of “The White Tiger” is that these are about the success of a killer servant. Is this the alleged “reality of India” that has been revealed?
Even today in India, English is the language of the elite who account for a mere one or two percent of the population. There is a negligible number of Indians who use English as a medium of thinking and self-expression. It is not without reason that most of Indian English writers such as Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie, Amitabh Ghosh, Farukh Dondhi, Jhumpa Lahiri and so on live in either England or America.
Even those who live in India also have an eye permanently cocked toward the West. In other words, these people never consider other Indians as their readers and neither do they write for Indian society or readers. This is why English writers lack quality as well as diversity. Some people may get fooled by media coverage, royalties and awards, but such English writing is never meant for Indians.
In this country, English is not the language of an overwhelming majority of Indians who simply do not understand it. Indeed, English is carrying on breathing in this country due to undue pressure from certain quarters. Therefore, most English writers from India essentially write for a foreign audience. Only they may be knowing for what purpose do they indulge in this exercise. But by any benchmark of art and literature, English writing written by such Indians is not quality writing at all. We should not demean ourselves by calling such writing as “Indian writing.”
There seems to be some kind of conspiracy of silence about “Waffle of the Toffs” as this scholarly work never gets mentioned anywhere, and hardly any references are availale to it online. It seems the pack of English Writers and journalists of India have closed ranks to give this work a quite burial.