Tag Archives: Khushwant Singh

Tragedy of Indian Writers in English

The tragedy of Indian writers in English is that they aren’t observant of humor and melancholy of everyday. They want their works to be lyrical. Romanticism emerging from the hallucination of dailiness makes their works poetic and yet hollow. They go on appropriating lives, the way they would like to see them, without really documenting lives, sharing the stories for their own crassness and sophistication. There are exceptions, but far and few and can be counted on fingers- Kiran Doshi’s ‘When Jinnah came to our home’ or Ruskin Bond’s works are few examples of the exceptions.

This is why I don’t like the works of Arundhati Roy. I could barely move beyond a dozen pages of her first novel and it has become a challenge to read her new novel. Her non-fiction is as good as her fiction. I don’t want to compare, sad to say, Khushwant Singh’s novel ‘Delhi’ is way more real than Roy’s recent lyrical work.

Interestingly, the translated works have that beauty. They are a glance to humor and melancholy of our dailiness, in all its crassness and sophistication.

And of course, writers in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu, and all other languages of South Asia (many of the other languages, I’ve read translated works either in Punjabi, Hindi or English), make you laugh and cry, sometimes both at the same. There is certain intimacy in non-English works, which English writers are yet to explore.


The Debate of Intolerance & Brahmin Identity

Now that the steam is settled on the issue of intolerance, it is time to look back and reflect. ‘Intolerance’ became the buzz word for the later part of last year. I was worried, whether my being ‘lactose intolerant’ will result in a new controversy.

Few months ago, I got to know that ‘I am lactose intolerant’, and there are many like me. Ah – wait; no need to call me and the others like me anti national- Pakistani agents, because we can’t digest the milk of the mother of many Indians, largely Brahmins.

Please I don’t want some Brahmin activist to return her award, which no one ever knew about, for my milk intolerance. It was given to her in late 80s. ‘The gate of Indian economy opened with the unlocking of Babri Masjid in early 90s.’ She wasn’t very known, as was yet to win a prestigious award. There was a precedent of returning awards; both Khushwant Singh and Bhagat Puran Singh Pingalwara returned the awards given by the state in 1984 to protest against the attack on Golden Temple. The invasion of Golden Temple was replicated in 1992 in Ayodhya, where a mob attacked an age old mosque. There is stark resemblance between the two incidents. I was too young to notice, I am sure at that time many would have reflected on the similarity between the two. When Modi Bhakts get in ‘what aboutery’ mode, I am put off by their arguments. Still there is some level of truth in what they say. The temperature of intolerance was apparently higher in early 90s. Why did the Brahmin activist not return the award at that time? ‘Nation needs an answer!’ Maybe the decision of returning the unknown award on the name of intolerance was taken to score brownie points against the ‘vernacular’ writers, as they were getting more attention. By the way, same goes for Nehru’s niece.

It seems that liberalism in India is associated with Brahminism. At some level individuals adhering to liberal values, also carry the flag of their caste. They (don’t be surprised, the same Brahmin activist) appropriate texts- their sycophant fans and friends defend them without engaging with the critiques and term the critics to be intolerant and jealous, publicity seeking individuals.Well, they have been calling anyone and everyone who challenges them to be intolerant, even before the incident of Dadri. It’s just that Dadri episode gave them an opportunity to distract the large Indian audience from questions of appropriation.

On another note, at the same time I read that one of their likes showed the desire of throwing his underwear on the face of a television anchor who invited him to speak ‘for those who have been displaced by mass demolition in Delhi’. Maybe he was somewhere inspired by Pink Chaddi Campaign, started by the one who later appropriated the text and returned the award. Only a Brahmin activist can think of doing that, others who have been displaced don’t even get a chance to watch television, leave aside speaking on the show.

We live in interesting times, where many Brahmin writers and intellectuals (though not all award returning individuals were Brahmins) returned their awards to protest against intolerance propagated by Brahmin value system. Brahmin Finance Minister called it a ‘manufactured dissent’, Brahmin actor marched to challenge the intolerant award returning writers. As it turned out, it became the ball game of Brahmins, each seeking more publicity than the other, by returning awards, appropriating texts or desiring to throw underwear.

An acquaintance always hashtag the statement- #BrahminsmadeIndia, in his facebook status messages and it seems that Brahmins like to affirm it by capturing the public imagination and space through subtleties of articulation.