India Insight

Does Indian literature owe its global success to the Raj?

As close to 50,000 people prepare to celebrate India’s bulging roster of nationally and internationally renowned authors and poets at the seventh annual Jaipur Literary Festival, a public spat between its British organiser and an Indian magazine over allegations of perpetuating “a Raj that still lingers” threatens to ignite a decades-old debate over the role of colonial English in the country’s literary success.

Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan (R) talks with Neville Tuli, founder and chairman of Osian's - Connoisseurs of Art Pvt Ltd, at the annual Jaipur literary festival, one of India's biggest, January 23, 2009. REUTERS/Abhishek Madhukar (INDIA)

As Delhi-based William Dalrymple and his fellow organiser stress the festival’s intent to showcase works from India’s array of states and dialects to thousands of book lovers, an article in India’s Open magazine this month claimed the festival matters “because of the writers from Britain it attracts”.

India’s literary elite has long wrestled with its complicated post-colonial legacy, sharpened by the huge international success of Indian writers such as Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth and Kiran Desai, who have put the former British colony on the literary map, but live, sell more books and win more awards in the UK or the U.S.

In the past five years, two Indians — Desai and Chennai-born Aravind Adiga — have won the prestigious Man Booker Prize. While the prize has been attacked by some for its arguably colonial legacy of rewarding writers in English from the British Commonwealth, Desai and Adiga saw their international profile soar, replicating the global success of former winners Rushdie and Arundhati Roy.

The article, titled “The Literary Raj” argues that the festival reaffirms the inferiority complex among Indian writers who crave international and specifically British recognition, suggesting that through his western-centric festival, Dalrymple has become “the pompous arbiter of literary merit in India”.

With the Games to come, 2010 looking rosy for India tourism

Tourism is big business in India and according to new figures released on Wednesday, business is booming.

A tourist takes a photograph in front of the Taj Mahal in the tourist city of Agra May 15, 2006. REUTERS/Brijesh Singh

Despite continued warnings of the threat of militant attacks in the country and sluggish growth in international traveller numbers following the global downturn, India’s tourism numbers bucked a downfall last year to post close to double-digit growth last month, resulting in an almost $1 billion windfall for the industry.

Foreign visitors jumped 9 percent during August compared to last year, with 382,000 entries during the month. A cumulative total since January of 3,467,000 is up 9.7 percent on 2009, according to India’s Ministry for External Affairs.

Who are the Commonwealth Games for?

INDIA-COMMONWEALTH/GAMESAs India races to get ready for the Commonwealth Games, graffiti questioning their mass appeal has appeared over the last few weeks near some of the venues hosting the October event.

The graffiti in English, a language many middle-class well-to-do Indians are proficient in, questions the Games’ focus.

“Pro-rich anti-poor CWG sucks” says one scrawl. Another is hopeful “the Games are a disaster”. “No to Games” reads one peremptory message.