Gods of juicy things
William Dalrymple has a long article in The Guardian about the post The God of small things Indian Writing in English. [link via Prufrock Two.] Interesting read. I won't get into the details or the merits of the arguments, mainy because I don't think I have the expertise to say anything sensible about stuff like gallows of authenticity. If you don't want to read the whole thing check out Prufrock's page for the gist of it.
Remember the Ram Guha - Dalrymple juicy columns of the past? More could be in the offing! See this:
There is even a relative absence of genuinely accessible, well-written and balanced general histories of India. The most widely available introductions to the subject - the two Penguin Histories by Romila Thapar and Percival Spear - are both fine, scholarly works, but pretty heavy-going. This as much as anything else, I think, has allowed Hindu nationalist myths to replace history among a large part of India's middle-class, who are keen consumers of desi fiction, but still have surprisingly little home-grown history to interest them.
In India, with the exceptions of the cricket historian Ramachandra Guha and Sunil Khilnani, author of The Idea of India (who has now decamped to Washington) - there is simply nothing like that. What English language non-fiction there is seems to be written by academics for the consumption of a handful of other, rival academics.
You might also remember that a point that was debated by Guha and Dalrymple was about the Doon mafia. Dalrymple's article tells us that the origin of that line of thought goes back to Arundhati Roy. Roy told Dalrymple once:
I grew up on the banks of a river in Kerala. I spent every day from the age of three fishing, walking, thinking, always alone. If you read other Indian writers most of them are very urban: they don't have much interest in, you know, air or water. They all went from the Doon School [the Indian Eton] to St Stephen's [the Indian Oxford] and then on to Cambridge.