As India completes 75 years as an independent country, we’ve compiled a list of ten must-reads that offer various perspectives on India - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the incomprehensible.
So here’s a list of 5 fiction and 5 non-fiction works, and why you should read them.
Author: Salman Rushdie
You know a book is out of the ordinary when the protagonist is a deformed creature who goes on to lose a little more of his limited appeal - and limbs - as the novel moves forward, and eventually acquires an equally unattractive fiance
Midnight’s Children is a work of magic realism that traces the stories of Saleem and Shiva, the ‘Nose’ and the ‘Knees’, two children born at the same time, and switched by a nurse.
Divided into three books, this masterpiece of Rushdie’s introduces a host of bawdy, larger-than-life, and smaller-than-fate characters – some historical, some imagined and some seemingly representative.
The Indian patois and the hilarious interplay of names make the novel even more burlesque. From the Maharaja of Cooch Naheen, to the repeated phrase “sab kuch tick-tock hai”, elements of the story will stay with the reader years after s/he has first read it.
The book, which traces the transition of India from a country ruled by the British to one ruled by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, is based on actual events, affecting the lives of its exaggerated characters. Its historical cast includes Sam Maneckshaw and Tiger Niazi. There are references to the Emergency measures executed by Sanjay Gandhi, including the controversial slum clearance projects. In fact, one particular line had to be edited out of the book, to settle a case Indira Gandhi filed against Rushdie.
The concept underlying the book is that the children born at the hour between 12 midnight and 1 AM on 15 August 1947 have special powers. The closer the child is born to the stroke of midnight, the more pervasive the powers.
The grotesque narrator, Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment independence was declared, has telepathic powers and an extraordinary sense of smell, both of which will get him into trouble at various points in the story. He gets in touch with his fellow-midnight’s-children, and forms a group that seems to represent the teething problems of the nation.
As the novel progresses, the gaps in political, religious, linguistic and cultural backgrounds of the members of the group become chasms, setting off a series of repercussions that find a parallel in what is happening to the country, and whom it impacts.
The novel won the Booker Prize for the year in which it was published. It was also awarded the Booker of Bookers and the Best of the Bookers titles in 1993 and 2008 respectively.
Text by : Nandini Krishnan