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Metro-centric myopia

The setting in almost all Indian writing in English is hardcore metropolitan, reports Anamika Chatterjee.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2006 13:14 IST

If Indian authors in English are to be believed, the country throbs only in its top urban centres Delhi and Mumbai, and perhaps to some extent, in Kolkata. Born and bred in these cities, the narratives of most (if not all) such authors are hardcore metropolitan.

Metro run: Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games, Chetan Bhagat's One Night At A Call Centre and Five Point Someone, Ira Trivedi's What Would You Do To Save The World or Tushar Raheja's Anything For You, Ma'am are all set in the metros. Says Chetan, "My stories were set in Delhi as I know the city. As writers we do tend to take a metro-centric view, but India is more than the big cities and understanding it is the key to our maximum reach. My third book will not be set in Delhi or a metro."

Says author Kiran Nagarkar, "An important factor responsible for the trend is that most Indian English fiction writers come from such cities. But at the same time, there are a few authors who experiment with the settings. Like Amitav Ghosh - the setting for The Glass Palace was different from that in The Hungry Tide."

Readers' choice: What redeems these metro-centric writers is that a big number of their readers is based outside India. Author Urvashi Butalia offers a different perspective: "A lot depends on what a writer wants to convey. When Premchand and RK Narayan were writing about rural India, they were not bothered about readership but were concerned with addressing larger issues of that time." Will the modern Indian fiction go beyond Delhi and Mumbai?

First Published: Nov 09, 2006 15:54 IST