Literary critic Nilanjan Roy (who turns out to be Huree Babu of the Kitabkana litblog!) explains why so many Indian authors have moved westward in the past:
For the Indian writer working in English, going abroad was one way to reach the marketplace, to lessen the very considerable distance between publishers, editors and agents in the west and the writer at 'home'. Vikram Chandra and Amit Chaudhuri teach at universities abroad; other writers have shifted because they have access to better jobs, more scholarships.But other Indian writers feel they want to stay close to their roots, and author Altaf Tyrewalla talks about his difficulties writing as a NRI:
I don't know how, for instance, I could write from the perspective of an imaginary butcher in a chicken shop if I wasn't also suffering the humidity like him, suffering the noise of a ghetto like him, and yet trying, like him, to think amidst this discomfort, this cacophony ... Midway through writing No God In Sight, I went to New York to be with my fiancée (now wife), hoping to continue with the novel there. I assumed I could write anywhere, that I could stretch my imagination wide enough to surmount the distance of thousands of kilometres. I was back in Mumbai in two months. It was a very expensive misadventure.The article points out the need for a local literary infrastructure for writers. Delhi-based reviewer Hirsh Sawney says:
There aren't as many literary institutions in India so writers aren't challenged to produce better work - aren't nurtured.However, things there do seem to be improving and there's another sign of a maturing literary culture - Indian writers are beginning to write novels set in parts of the world, says Rana Dasgupta*
I have a lot of pressure from my publishers to write about India (but) it is a colonial hangover in publishing to think that writers in India, Africa and the Caribbean must write about their home cultures while writers from the West could write about anywhere. Mature literary cultures should feel like they can write about the world.*Rana Dasgupta has a very cool website - you can leave your graffiti all over it!
Pic of a Calcutta bookseller nicked from the Guardian.