Indian Authors Breathing New Life Into Modern Literature

Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh; Maya Shanbhag Lang
Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh; Maya Shanbhag Lang(L); (R)

Tis’ the season to cuddle up with a nice book and a warm cup of tea, and sometimes that’s the only thing really getting us through the dreary days and cold nights. As an avid reader, there’s nothing I like more than getting everyone around me to read my favourite books so we can all gush about them together. So if you’re looking for the next great book to add to your list, or for your next book club recommendation, read on.

South Asian literature is only now starting to gain recognition on a global platform, with a wide variety of books being published every year, across all genres, categories, and ages. There is something out there for everyone. These books are a perfect starter guide to South Asian literature, so if you just want to dip your toe into the water that is brilliant pieces of literature, these are the books you should do it with.

Translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur, this book is an unsettling account of one family’s journey from rags to riches. ‘Ghachar Ghochar’, a phrase that means a mess that is tangled beyond repair, is made up by one of the characters in the story and leads us to believe that instead of hanging onto the ropes, the family finds themselves at the end of the rope. Taking a gamble with his life savings, our main character’s father takes his family from near-homelessness to living in a sky-high apartment, where they struggle to make ends meet in a different way.

Favourite quote: “The well-being of any household rests on selective acts of blindness and deafness.”

Suffused with humour, sensitivity, and a wallop of emotions, Pinto’s debut novel follows a family of four in Mahim, Bombay. With our main character going back in time to find out how his mother Imelda’s (Em) mental illness began, he begins to find a new appreciation of the woman she had been before she became a mother and before her mental illness started to creep into all aspects of her life. Our unnamed narrator finds that his mother was a quirky, and vivacious young woman, with a peculiar love story between her and her husband, the Big Hoom.

Favourite quote: “I wanted to understand her predicament because I was her son and I loved her with a helpless corroded love.”

Don't Let Him Know by Sandip Roy
Don't Let Him Know by Sandip Roy
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A literary debut unlike any other, Sandip Roy’s Don’t Let Him Know will keep you up till sunrise with your face buried in the book, and will stay with you for much longer than that. While each chapter is a standalone story, reading them consecutively forms an unforgettable novel. Following three main characters- Avinash, his wife Romola, and their son Amit, each character believes that they are able to keep secrets from the other two, but through these secrets emerges a seamless combination of a story that jumps through time and space without any problems. It is sensitive and sad, witty and droll at the same time.

Favourite quote: “Romola started laughing like she had not laughed in years. She had the sensation of thousands of coloured feathers cascading down from the ceiling, an endlessly exploding piñata.”

Another book about the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, author Shanbhag Lang’s book takes us through the trials and tribulations of having a mother that you idolise while growing up until you realise that everything is not as it seems. Unearthing family secrets and scandals, while taking care of an ageing and ailing mother and a young daughter of her own, Shanbhag Lang’s memoir is one of honesty and courage, about the weight that we cannot let go of, and what happens when we finally do.

Favourite quote: “Maybe at our most maternal, we aren’t mothers at all. We’re daughters, reaching back in time for the mothers we wish we’d had and then finding ourselves.”

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Arjun Nath’s debut novel is a dual perspective story, outlining Nath’s life at a rehab centre outside Mumbai, and his doctor, Dr Yusuf Merchant. Uncharacteristically woven with stories of lightness among his fellow occupants, Nath’s personal journey to overcome his heroin addiction, and the free-spirited Doc, White Magic will leave you crying with laughter and sadness in alternating turns. But don’t be taken in. Land is a place of strength and fortitude, but it is definitely not a place you want to be in.

Favourite quote: “If drugs were people you met at a party, ganja and hashish would be the middle-aged guys in dirt-starched jeans sitting on the terrace strumming a guitar. They would say things like ‘dude, check out the moon’ a lot.”

Divided by class, but united in fandom, Shrayana Bhattacharya documents the trajectories of a group of young Shah Rukh Khan fans, from economic to personal, while they still look for intimacy and independence in their lives. This book is an insightfully researched look into what Indian women really think about things like men, money, beauty, agency, and love. A book that is uniquely written through the female gaze, embracing Shah Rukh offers them a break from the usual toxic masculinity seen on our screens and in everyday life. Covering everything from statistics to SRK, this is a definite must-read for any fan of Bollywood or developmental economics.

Favourite quote: “Fantasizing about an impossibly idealized kind of love they’d seen an actor perform on-screen. Yet, all their real-world efforts were extremely pragmatic, often sacrificing the love they fantasized about as a price for earning status, security, and financial freedom.”

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