Amish Tripathi, Arnab Ray, Indian Fiction, Ravan and Eddie, Shiva Trilogy, Sidin Vadukut, The Mine

The Importance of Being Untalented

Note – All semi-colons in the article are not deliberate and are the result of MS Word Auto Correct.

After his heavy-duty assault on all the leaders across the Indian political spectrum, Arnab Goswami asked his audience to wait for two minutes so that he could introduce us to this new “literary pop star”, as flashed by the headline. Amish Tripathi was on screen within a few minutes and Arnab, after heaping him with praises for his literary genius and meticulous research, told the unassuming author, that he reserves his admiration for talented people like Tripathi. 

I have read the first two books in the Shiva Trilogy. Now, don’t get me wrong, Meluha and Nagas are average pieces of work which evoke a sense of use and throw in the readers. I have to give it to Amish for the novelty in his theme. Combining our early history of Saraswati-Sindhu civilisation and the Indian Shiva Purana, he certainly made the story line appealing, especially for mythology-history freaks like me. But the positivity ends there.

The claims of interesting narrative, gripping theme, and taut research are, sadly, bunkum. I am not here to waste your time disproving how unauthentic his story is because stories unless non-fictions are not required to get top marks in authenticity, unless otherwise claimed. What actually matters is the imagination that requires in stitching the threads into a fine fabric of story and the experience the readers obtain in reading it; the impact, the work has on its final audience. I will be honest. I don’t dislike the book. Trust me. I will rate it at the very bottom of my “Readable Average Books” list. I will. But I certainly won’t celebrate the book as the epitome of modern Indian literature; won’t label it as the fancy combination of myth and history in a believable way. This is exactly the opposite of how I look at the book. But I do request to read it. Reasons are aplenty, most important among them being, as has already been mentioned, the theme. The language is simple enough for anyone to understand. The book is comparatively shorter. And it gives some lost souls a false sense of being readers. So I sincerely request and suggest reading it. 

What saddens is the general quality of the books that have been releasing off-late. I am not asking everyone to write a Wolf Hall or a Vernon God Little. I am not even expecting a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I don’t expect a Ruskin Bond or a Malgudi Days. What I do expect is a modicum of quality in the writing, a good story and a few good laughs if your intention is that. It’s not always possible to get a favourable reception from the hi-fi literary circles. Even J K Rowling was put down by fellow writers as an average writer. As @voldemort says, apparently, inspiring a generation was not enough in their eyes! But such a stamp of approval from the elite book reading club is NOT what I am talking about. 

It is the basic sincerity you have for your craft and the respect you give to the art of writing that I am emphasising on. Chetan Bhagat is apparently the representative of these low-brow books. I don’t accept that. As a neutral reader I am inclined to accept Bhagat is a good writer, may be not great, but entertaining and funny. Something I will read, when I am fed up reading for hours, how Palme Dutt discovered that Gandhiji and the whole bunch of Congress nationalists were in fact secret representatives of bourgeoisie (thats boo-shwa for you).  

When I was given a book, one fine morning by my college mates, with a caveat that if I don’t cry after reading this book I am not a human being, I thought “Oho! Great let me read it.” I started reading. After about 50 pages, I started skipping 2 pages for every page I read. I have this bad habit; I can’t leave things in the middle. Finally, to the relief of my soul and eyes, I finished this piece of literary diamond called “I too had a Love Story” and I cried. I cried at the taste of my friends and later of the country when I found that it was a best seller. And cried repeatedly when I got a chance to read another Indian author book called Orange Hangover. It was as if I was Deepika Padukone from Cocktail after knowing Saif loves Diana. You know, all hysterical and drunk type – sad. Sigh!

But all is not lost. There is this guy called Sidin Vadukut. To my relief, the Malayali (and hence Indian) has written one of the funniest corporate humours I have read [not that I have read many]. The Dork series is ingenious and original. The subtle witticisms the author has imparted into his book, and the entire narrative itself, is, thankfully, interesting. Then I read Ravan and Eddie by Kiran Nagarkar. Though he not the least among the new generation, and though the book was released way back in 1994, I was happy that the cause is not lost, and a strong foundation was already laid. The 71 year old author is younger than any of these “new-generation” “writers” (God, help me,  it seems everything about these latest authors need to be put in quotes to be imply the words’ irony.)
Then I read The Mine. It is undoubtedly one of the best books ever to have come out in past decade in the thriller genre. I was impressed. I was terrified. I was not able to sleep for a few days. The book affected me in all possible manners a book should. I lapped up the book like a hot pair of idlis from Murugan Idly Shops. The book is thât good. What exhilarates me about The Mine even now, despite reading it a billion times, and suggesting it to almost all of my friends, is that the book, in my eyes, is a hope. It gives me hope about the future of our fiction writing. It gives me hope that among the various Amishs and Ravinders we have brilliant writers like Arnab Ray to satisfy a creatively hungry audience in diverse genres.

When I try telling this to others, people shut me out as if I am some humbug who tries to look intellectual and that the books like the ones written by Amish and Ravinder and god knows who all, does not require any approval from anyone. And that is the utmost tragedy of the situation. Please do understand, dear readers, it does matter. It does matter that you read some random stuff and anoint yourself a reader. But more than that, it does matter that your ignorance and lack of taste is affecting genuine talents of the likes of Ray. I couldn’t help myself but imagine what it would have been had the writer of The Mine was on the show in yesterday’s News Night and that Karan Johar was going to adapt it onto the large screen. But, realise that your uninspiring choices, is making it impossible for deserving candidates to get a wider audience. It’s a loss for you and not for anyone else. Perhaps the adage of “Talent is important” doesn’t stand a chance in your eyes. Perhaps the Importance of being Untalented is more than ever now.
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