January 2, 2008

The holy trinity of Indian literature

One of the books on India that was highlighted in my previous post was Ramachandra Guha’s India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy.

I have not read anything to date by Ramachandra Guha, though I find that he has written quite a few good books on topics that are of interest to me -- Indian history, many books on environmentalism, and has even written and edited books on cricket!

In a recent article in Outlook, Guha compares the triumvirate of Salman Rushdie, Amartya Sen and VS Naipaul to the Hindu holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva:

"Analagous to Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, we have Salman the Creator, Amartya the Preserver, and Sir Vidia the Destroyer. Just as Brahma gave birth to the world, Rushdie gave birth, through his magnificent novel Midnight's Children, to an innovative and globally influential school of Indian writing in English. Like the god he resembles he appears to have done little since—but, for that first and fundamental act of creation, we worship him still.

Vishnu the Preserver is supposed to have had 10 avatars. His successor probably exceeds him in this regard. Sometimes he comes to us as a Bangladeshi (by virtue of the fact that he was born in Dhaka), at other times as a Bengali, at still other times as a Global Indian. Other roles he has assumed include economist, philosopher, sociologist, historian, and seer. Like the god he resembles he comes to cheer us, to console us, to chastise us.

Siva could set the world ablaze with a mere blink of the eyelids. His modern successor can destroy a reputation by a word or two said (or unsaid). As with Siva, we fear Sir Vidia, we propitiate him, and we worship him. Who knows, if we are diligent and devoted enough, he may grant us some favours in this world (or the next)."

Beautiful stuff. :)

Note: I found the above excerpt at a post by Hari Jagannathan Balasubramanian, who blogs at the creatively titled blog - Thirty letters in my name. This was my first time at this blog, landing there via a post at India Uncut. The IU post was in itself an interesting history lesson about our biases and prejudices but that’s a topic for another time. For now, you can go read Hari’s post and also Amit’s related article about the ‘Expanding Circle’ for further details.

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