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.