New India’s New Fictions
Anubha Yadav
EADING NEW INDIA: POST MILLENNIAL INDIAN FICTION IN ENGLISH by E. Dawson Varughese Bloomsbury, 2013, 187 pp., 799
September 2013, volume 37, No 9

Some years back, I found myself attending the farewell function of a sarkaari officer, a bureaucrat. The usual white-cloth covered chairs, the podium with a small shaky wood table, a vase of short stemmed officious looking desi roses and a red carpet on the stage. Like the tradition of speech delivery goes, the speeches started from the junior-most officers and slowly moved upwards, in peculiar babu English. The finale was to be delivered by the senior-most bureaucrat sitting right in the centre. Finally this last bureaucrat got the microphone. And he said, ‘Today, I am again reminded of those lines, Debakanta Barua’s lines, “India is Indira, Indira is India”.’ And he went ahead to explain how the bureaucrat, the woman retiring (her name also Indira) was indeed the Department itself. He got a huge reception of claps from the audience. It would perhaps be an apt start for a post-emergency Indian-novel in English.

On one hand the anecdote in itself is peculiar to India, while on the other, words like ‘sarkaari’, ‘desi’ and ‘babu’ accentuate that ‘Indian-ness’. Daisy Rockewell in her paper: ‘The Shape of a Place: Translation and Cultural Marking in South Asian Fictions’ defines this practice of ‘cultural marking’ of a text to identify that text as ‘inhabiting a particular culture’. Varughese’s Reading New India dwells in detail on similar ideas: what are the mechanisms and preoccupations of ‘Indian Writing in English’ that uniquely qualify it as Indian writing in English? The book seeks to answer this critical question through a contemporary study of India and Indian literature in English in the context of their overlapping histories.

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