Top Indian authors that you must read once
India has a diverse culture of art and literature. With over 500 languages of the country, India has books of all cultures and dialects. But not only do Indians take pride in their languages they also celebrate the unity in the diversity. Therefore, there are so many Indian authors who wrote several masterpieces ranging from Arundhati Roy’s- ‘The god of small things’ to Manto’s ‘Thanda Ghosht’.
But despite their huge popularity in the country, not many of them get recognition on the global level. Indian English literature might have a shorter history but is rich with award-winning masterpieces no book lover should miss out on. However, few managed to gather fan following across the borders and write masterpieces to conquer the world beyond. Here is the list of a few Indian authors that you must read once in your lifetime.
To get your reading journey started, here is the list of authors that have greatly influenced the country’s literature.
Saadat Hassan Manto- Thanda Gosht
Saadat Hassan Manto’s belief in liberation, morality, and ethics were translated as psychoanalytical portraits. While many considered him as a psycho, there lay others who admired his work as a jewel.
One of the most gruesome yet realistic stories was ‘Thanda Gosht’ published in 1950, a story about a Sikh man returning home and being stabbed by his wife during sex when he confesses to raping a corpse. Manto was charged with obscenity for this story and faced a trial in criminal court. But this didn’t mark an end to his journey and he published yet another writing ‘Khol Do’, one of the masterpieces depicting the effects of violence during the partition. He was yet again charged by Pakistan Penal Code for obscenity and violence. But Manto never believed in writing polite narrations and always chose to show reality through his works. He believed that women have sexual needs and their own sexual vision, which was well narrated in his several stories.
Arundhati Roy- The God of Small Things
There are many facets to the controversy surrounding The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. While the book portrays Roy’s anti-Communist views but perhaps it was an inter-caste affair in the book that landed Roy in controversy.
A closer look at the book and you may realize that it’s a kind of book that you ‘live’ and not just read. It challenges the abysmally small, compressed, and beaten down Adivasis of India. Each page branches out the complex reality of an average divorced mother and her take on her two children wrapped in a love affair with a servant of a different caste. The book speaks multiple languages of love and defines people with different abilities and characters. It’s especially the metaphors in the book that etched into our memory and define the book as a masterpiece by Roy in Indian literature.
Set in the town of Ayemenem, the story revolves around two siblings- Rahel and Estha. Separated for 23 years after an unfaithful incident of childhood, Estha and Rahel are reunited under controversial circumstances. But it isn’t the controversy that holds you captive, instead of it’s an unnatural yet realistic life experience that makes you bound to the letters of this book. Interrogating the colonial history of India, Roy’s take on ‘The god of small things’ is majorly the caste system that divides people of India.
Ismat Chugtai- Lihaaf
Ismat Chugtai remains many women for many people. She was a charismatic writer who dared to go against the boundaries of societies. She was an iconoclast, an icon for women empowerment but before this, a woman who believed in open speech. For a writer constantly recalled as ‘Female Manto’ or ‘Lady Changez Khan’, her life and legacy remain unappreciated and ignored.
At night, the great shadows formed by the quilt of Begum Jan define the long tale of sexual affection, hidden masseuse, and a distinctive husband. As the moon sets and the sun rises lighting up the world, the life of Begum Jan is surrounded by a dark world of secrets and bowdlerize yet in the night her true identity echoes. As Ismat Chugai pens ‘Lihaaf’, she narrates how the world sensualizes homosexuality and middle-class gentility.
Chugtai’s style of writing is described as best for novel and short story writing that no other writer could compete with. Her famous works include Pesha, Terhi Lakeer, and Jaren.
Ruskin Bond- The Room on the Roof
Ruskin Bond is an Indian author of British descent. His first novel ‘The Room on the Roof’ received the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1957 and to date remains one of his best works. The story revolves around a boy called Rusty from Anglo-Indian descent, who struggles to find his identity in a world created by his guardians who want him to grow as a pure Englishman living in India. The dilemma of the young boy who suffers to find his name and longs for freedom. Rusty breaks free of his controlled life when he decides to run away.
As life goes on, Rusty becomes friends with several local Indians and for the first time in his life gets to experience India like never before. If Rusty had not become friends with the people of the bazaar he would never have had all the wonderful experiences in the story. The story also ends on a satisfactory note where he helps another boy of the same fate to break free of the cycle.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni- Palace of Illusions
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an Indian-American author and poet and her novel Palace of Illusions remains a masterpiece. The award-winning novel retells the classic tale of Mahabharata in a new epic version. Draupadi the wife of five Pandavas in the story is depicted as a fierce yet vulnerable character who is surrounded by her own tragedies of life. Despite being the main character of the epic, Draupadi received much less attention. The Palace of Illusions gives us a peek inside Draupadi’s mind as the story is written according to her point of view. Divakaruni has perfectly brought out the narration of Mahabharata from a different lens giving us an experience of never before.
A reimagining of the world-famous Indian epic, Palace of Illusions is a novel worth reading. It recounts the world of a woman in a male-dominated society and how they shape the affairs of their lives. Panchali’s narration of the epic is relatively intriguing in reading and gives readers a chance to witness Mahabharata from a woman’s point of view. Palace of Illusions is a must-read book for epic fanatics.
Khushwant Singh- Train to Pakistan
Khushwant Singh’s experience in the 1947 Partition of India inspired him to write Train to Pakistan in 1956, which became his most well-known novel. The book is based on Hindu- Muslim dispute of the 1947 bloody partition of India. The story narrates the love story set in a fictional village set on the borders of India and Pakistan where Muslims and Sikhs lived in harmony. However, one day a train arrives from India, which carries the bodies of all the Muslim children, Womens and Mens who have been killed in partition changed the history of the village forever.
It is one Indian classic novel that recounts the terror of the partition of India. It’s not just a book for beginners but a masterpiece that beg your attention. Train to Pakistan carries a story weighed beyond words and a very sensitive message that is overwhelmingly difficult to interpret.
The Partition of India was the division of British India in 1947 which accompanied the creation of two independent dominions, India and Pakistan. But this partition was not as simple as it seems. A gruesome massacre was carried around where almost 200,000 to 2,000,000 people were killed from both the communities- Hindu and Muslim. It was the result of the British’s divide and rule policy.