Indian readers have a phoren fixation
By Payal Ganguly | Published: 21st November 2012 11:30 AM |
For a man of words, poet and writer Keki N. Daruwalla uses words economically, much like his poems. On the sidelines of the conference on ‘Revisiting the contours of English studies’ at English and Foreign Languages University in the city, he speaks of the classification among Indian writers in English and the lost hobby of reading.
“There are friends who have a copy of my books but have not found the time to read them. There is a general lack of interest in creative literature, though people buy books on mythologies, self-improvement and self-motivation by the dozen. There is a need for a readership survey for the masses in tune with foreign countries which goes to show what exactly are the readers picking up,” says the poet who had served as the former secretary and chairman of Joint Intelligence Committee and special secretary of Research and Analysis Wing of India.
Ruing the fact that the ‘look east’ mantra which has ruled the global literary circles for a while have failed to touch the Indian readers, the poet highlights the fascination from name-brand publishers. “Indian readers seem to be in awe of all things foreign. The mindset hasn’t changed and it has an impact on Indian writers who write in English and are based in the country,” observes the Sahitya Akademi award winning poet.
“Diaspora writing is bound to find publishers outside the country. However, the Indian readership does not take too kindly on the poet who is published by the national publishing houses,” says the poet who has been given to prose over the last few years. His book, ‘For Pepper and Christ’ based on Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 2010 after he won the prize for poetry in Asia in 1987.
He laments that the Indian publishing houses rarely make an attempt at publicizing the various laurels of the author, for those who judge a book by its cover and the printed merits of the author. “There is also a danger of the Diaspora writing influencing the Indian style of writing. The post-modern poets are influenced by the American literature, which makes them prone to drawing too much attention to them at the opening page of a book or poem. This is creeping into Indian writing, though I personally do not have anything against Diaspora literature,” says the septuagenarian.
Is poetry alive in India then? “There are numerous promising young poets in the country now, such as Jeet Thayil (shortlisted for Man Booker prize for 2012), Ranjit Hoskote, Sridala Swami, Arundhati Subramaniam and Rukmini Bhaya Nair. They are some of the finest poets around,” says the man whose works have managed to capture the intensity of human emotions in varied landscapes of space and time.