As a former literature student, I have a tendency to analyse books, especially by authors from countries where the native language is not English, like India (where I am from). And this analysis generally reveals concepts and themes that hang too heavily on my mind. Simply because when I pick up a book, I just expect to be transported to a world as far away from reality as possible (that’s why fantasy and sci-fi work really well for me).
However, the occasional book comes along, where I get to just enjoy a story without thinking too deeply about cultural references, symbolism, stereotypes and so on. One such book was Lavanya Shankaran’s Red Carpet. It’s a collection of short stories about the lives of characters who live in Bangalore. Light and easy to relate to, this book is a fast read. It does not linger too long on inane details (a technique that many authors use too frequently, so much so that the reader is forced to focus on these details and feel like the plot has been left behind).
Or, take for instance Anita Nair’s Ladies Coupe. Though I read this at least 12 years ago, I remember this book to have impacted me very gently. I read it at a time when I had just started questioning concepts about love, companionship, independence etc (you get the drift). And along came this book that again very simply explored these topics through the protagonist, Akhila, who takes a trip to Kanyakumari in a ladies coupe and tries to find answers to her dilemma through the lives of five other women in the train compartment.
Of course there have been unpleasant experiences with books like God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and Sultry Days by Shobha De. I was happier with these books off my shelf and out of my life than with them around me. Way happier. These were some of the last few books that I picked up by Indian authors, and I’ve hoped they are not the last. I’ve hoped a lot.
And I think it’s time to spark that hope again. I’m ready to try my hand again at good books by Indian authors, and to uncover some interesting reads. What made this happen? Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People.