INDIAN WRITING IN ENGLISH.
The topic of Indian writing , particularly fiction writing , has been a subject matter of many academic debates. There exists a corpus of critical and analytical writings on this subject. I have no wish to add anything substantive to that. I do not think that I am even qualified to do that. This blog merely discusses my own problems while writing this novel.
There are three aspects of Indian writing in English that would be briefly discussed in this blog. I am going to analyze the reasons Why did I choose to write in English
1. Is it because I am comfortable with the language?
2. Is it because my sensibility has been shaped by
3. Is English language ,with all its idioms ,suitable medium for
what is essentially an Indian experience ?
Let me begin with my own exposure to English. I have studied in Gujarati medium school. Therefore my own exposure to English language is restricted to an academic level. During my school days , I used English language only for my examinations and very rarely for day to day conversations. However I was an avid reader of English literature from my teens. Strangely ,I have not read children’s literature in English while growing up. My exposure to English literature lacked stories of Cinderella , Jack and the beanstalk , the famous five etc. It began with Verne and Doyle . Thanks to my father ,I graduated from these books to serious literature directly. From Gardener to Greene is a quantum leap , but I did it without much difficulty. In retrospect , I think this has resulted in my English being more formal than conversational. On serious reflection , I feel that I have imbibed English literary sensibility during my growing up years that makes me comfortable with creative writing in English ( albeit with more formal language).
Let me turn to the second question. The choice of language for a person writing his first novel is the most critical. So the question is why did I choose English language for my first novel ? It might sound little strange but I am very comfortable ( in fact very proficient) Gujarati language. In spite of the fact that I have not written anything in Gujarati for a very long time , I can write perceptive prose in Gujarati language on the topics of science and literature. I take pride in my proficiency in Gujarati literature ( both fiction and nonfiction). My sensibility has been shaped by Gujarati literature as much as by foreign literature. So the question is why did I choose English language for my first novel ?
The answer to this question is not easy to articulate. However , I will try to answer that as best as I can. As mentioned above , I have stopped writing in Gujarati language since my schooling. My intellectual growth ( for whatever it is worth) has been during my college years. In those years , I mainly studied in English. Therefore I have learnt to think in English. Some of the seminal influence on me has come from reading English books of T. S. Eliot , Albert Camus ,Eugene O’Neil , Ezra Pound , Jose Luis Borges , Garcia Marquez. Their writings have all entered my sensibility through English language. Therefore , when I decided to write novel ,English language was my default setting. If I had to write in Gujarati , I would have been compelled to think in English and then translate it into Gujarati. Therefore English became my natural choice. I believe that all Indian writers writing in English have this Janus faced sensibilities. It is not easy to choose. For instance , If I choose to write poetry in future , I am sure I would choose to write in Gujarati language. Strangely , my introduction to English poetry ( particularly those of Eliot and Pound ) came from Gujarati writings of Prof Niranjan Bhagat. In that sense , mother tongue of poetry for me is Gujarati. In short , my choice of English language for my first novel is not easy to explain. I think in future I would write in both the languages.
This dichotomy in my literary development ( i. e. English language for prose and Gujarati language for poetry) brings me to the third question. If cultural sensibilities are shaped by language of that culture, how fruitful it would be to write about Indian sensibility in English language ? Is our Indian sensibility really language specific ? Alternatively , can any language fail to describe particular sensibility of culture that has not grown up in that language ? These questions are discussed threadbare in literary criticism and I have no wish ( or no caliber) to enter into that debate. I am happy to share my own experience about writing this novel. While writing this novel , I found out that it is very difficult to communicate flavors of Indian literature in English. Readers who know Indian languages would easily notice how bad my translations of Indian quotes are. However ,I think human experience , in the ultimate analysis is universal. The job of literature is to depict that human experience in most universal terms. If I have been able to internalize J. Alfred Prufock ,it is because Eliot had that genius which could translate his predicament to the level of universal angst. The same logic applies to Kalidasa’s Shakuntala. There are two aspects to literature being independent of the language. Firstly , the human experience in its purest form transcends language barrier. Secondly , every language finds great writers who manage to express this purest form of human experience in that language. Therefore as a writer , I am not worried about which language is right for me , but I am worried more about my ability to convert my experiences into that purest form of human experience. Whether I have succeeded in doing that in this novel is for readers to decide.
The book is available at this link: