Emma Dawson Varughese, author of Reading New India: Post Millennial Indian Fiction in English talks about her new book and its recent launch at the inspiring Jaipur Literature Festival 2013.
As you enter Diggi Palace, your eyes are awash with pink – pink banners, pink lanterns and swathes of pink cloth moving haplessly in the January breeze of the pink city, Jaipur. It’s not only the ‘pinkness’ of the Jaipur Literature Festival which proves mesmerising, the footfall at the biggest literature festival in Asia is also captivating, with various tents, rooms, stalls and bookshops, the Jaipur Literature Festival is certainly something to experience, especially if it involves your book launch...
Reading New India: Post-Millennial Indian fiction in English was inaugurated at the literary festival at Diggi Palace to a Saturday afternoon audience. As a slice of ‘New India’ itself sat under the canopy of the ‘TATA Steel Front Lawns’, Namita Gokhale co-director of the festival presented a copy of Reading New India to the public, underscoring its importance in the contemporary literary scene of India.
The idea for Reading New India came as I flew out of Mumbai in stormy monsoon clouds in 2009. I had, once again been hit by the staggering development and construction each time I left the airport, be that in Mumbai, Bangalore, Cochin or Delhi. In tandem, the literary production of Indian fiction in English was equally staggering and I knew then, that this body of new writing deserved academic attention. Academics from both the UK and India have echoed this need, Prof Malashri Lal of the University of Delhi endorsing the publication, saying that: "it’s the first book to focus on fiction at the millennium, the crossroad for India’s globalization". There has been particular interest from universities in Hyderabad, Bangalore and from Rajasthan looking for a text to complement literary courses and postgraduate interests in contemporary Indian fiction.
Prof John Thieme of the University of East Anglia writes about Reading New India:
"A compelling introduction to the multitude of fresh voices to be found in the pages of twenty-first century Indian fiction. Putting its main emphasis on novels published within India itself, many of them unknown outside the country, it invites its readers to fasten their seatbelts for a journey into a land of call centres, reality shows, ‘‘Metro Reads’’, MTV and variant sexual behaviour."
Much of Reading New India is about young and aspirational, urban India, the narratives explored in the book suggest that postcolonial narratives belong to an erstwhile India and that post-millennial fiction in English from India captures and critiques a post-liberalised India of the noughties and beyond. Chick Lit, new waves of historical fiction, Crick Lit (my term) and the graphic novel are all manifest of this post-millennial literary feast and as the publishing scene in India keeps growing, offering affordable paperback books of these various and engaging narratives of life in 21st century India, reading and understanding new India becomes ever more necessary. Indeed, evidence of ‘new India’ is all around, malls in the metros push up, flyovers re-sculpt the urban landscape, cranes hang on the skyline, and as 2013 sees Jaipur’s autorickshaws fitted with inbuilt satnavs, one thing is for sure - more people will certainly make it to Diggi Palace in 2014.
E. Dawson Varughese is an independent scholar in literary and cultural studies. She is an experienced field researcher of world literature in English and is the author of Beyond The Postcolonial: World Englishes Literature (2012). See her work at: www.beyondthepostcolonial.com
Reading New India: Post-Millennial Indian fiction in English is out now, RRP £19.99, available for just £17.99 from www.bloomsbury.com