There is nothing as fascinating as Indian literature. While Paulo Coelho, Khaled Hosseini and Ayn Rand's works interest almost every other bookworm, novels written by Indian authors are arresting enough and depict love, longing and loss apart from social issues just as well. Sometimes, even better.
From Urdu and Kannada to Bengali and Malayalam, India is replete with authors who represented the diversity and culture of the country through their words in their novels. Not to forget, most Indian authors also narrated the plight of their women protagonists in stories apart from underscoring the nuances of relationships.
For example, Karutthamma and Pareekkutty's long lost love story in Malayalam author TS Pillai's Chemmeen. As for those who fancy detective novels, you always have Feluda to go back to. Rabindranath Tagore's Gora is a beautiful love story with some burning topics (relevant even today) thrown in, while Kalki Krishnamurthy's Ponniyin Selvan is a historical saga that you might indulge in if you prefer reading stories of old dynasties and empires.
Most of the books written by acclaimed regional authors are available in English translated versions. In this article, we list the best regional novels that you must pick up in quarantine to soothe your soul.
Here you go.
Umrao Jan Ada
Umrao Jan Ada
Written by Mirza Hadi Ruswa and first published in 1899, Umrao Jan Ada is often considered as the first Urdu novel. Journey through the old, archaic Lucknow in Umrao Jan Ada as Ruswa takes you through the palaces of the nawabs and the grandiose atmosphere. Umrao Jan Ada is the story of a courtesan in Lucknow. Her life wasn't easy as Umrao, born as Amiran, was kidnapped and subsequently sold to Khanum Jaan, the head of a kotha. Throughout her years in the kotha, Umrao learns classical poetry, music, dance, Urdu and Persian. Happiness and tragedy follow Umrao simultaneously as her life has been detailed meticulously in this novel that is definitely worth a read. Khushwant Singh and MA Husaini translated the novel from Urdu to English.
The Adventures of Feluda
The Adventures of Feluda
15 or 60. Age is just a number as far as Feluda is concerned because his adventures appeal to readers at any given point of time. Prodosh Chandra Mitter, fondly known as Feluda, is a fictional Bengali private investigator, created by the legendary author Satyajit Ray. Accompanied by his cousin Topshe and the joyous crime writer Lalmohan Ganguly or Jatayu, Feluda traverses cities including Jaisalmer and Shimla to untangle mysteries. Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) and Joi Baba Felunath (The Mystery of the Elephant God) are some of the acclaimed Feluda stories that Satyajit Ray wrote. While separate novels of Feluda stories are available in English, you may also read several volumes of The Complete Adventures of Feluda, translated to English from Bengali by Gopa Majumdar.
The First Promise
Bengali author Ashapurna Debi weaved magic with her women protagonists as she described their predicament and sorrow in every short story. Prothom Protishruti, translated to English as The First Promise by Indira Chowdhury, is a path breaking novel by Ashapurna Debi. Eight-year-old Satyabati, a child bride, is the heroine of the novel. Ashapurna Debi narrates Satyabati's struggle as she fights against family control and social prejudices in a patriarchal society. Prothom Protishruti also won the Rabindra Puraskar and the Jnanpith Award.
TS Pillai's Malayalam novel Chemmeen documents the story of Karutthamma, a Hindu woman of the fishermen community and Pareekkutty, a Muslim man. Owing to the norms of the society, Karutthamma is subject to scrutiny after her community members discover her affair with Pareekkutty. Soon after, Karutthamma is married off to Palani, who trusts his wife irrespective of being aware of her past. All is well until one night, Karutthamma meets Pareekkutty while Palani is at the sea. Will she betray Palani after her encounter with her past? Chemmeen, translated from Malayalam to English by Anita Nair, is a beautiful story of love and everything else that surrounds it.
Written by UR Ananthamurthy in Kannada, Bharathipura is based on the practice of untouchability and the caste system in India. Jagannatha, the protagonist of the story, is an 'enlightened' modern Indian. All hell breaks loose after Jagannatha makes an attempt to take 'untouchables' inside the Manjunatha temple. Translated to English from Kannada by Susheela Punitha, Bharathipura highlights the complications related to social justice in India.
Premchand, celebrated for his modern Hindustani literature, is an acclaimed author best known for his novels such as Godaan, Mansarovar and Idgah. Books apart, Premchand has also written several short stories such as Do Bailon Ki Katha, Kafan and Boodhi Kaaki. Through his stories, Premchand highlighted the issues that the poor and the urban class battled as he wrote about corruption, poverty and colonialism. In Godan, Premchand writes about the story of "peasant India" as he narrates the plight of the hungry and impoverished sections of society. Poverty does not bring them down because their optimism and hopeful attitude keeps them alive. The novel has been translated to English as The Gift of a Cow by Jai Ratan and P Lal.
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's Devdas is every romantic novel lover's favourite. It is based on the tragic love story of Paro, Devdas and Chandramukhi. Devdas and Paro are childhood friends but are separated after he leaves for his studies. After several years, Dev returns and falls in love with Paro. But tragedy strikes after altercations arise between both the families and Paro is married off to a zamindar. Devdas, heartbroken, finds solace in a courtesan, Chandramukhi, who eventually falls for him. Devdas, however, suffers for Paro and takes to alcohol. The story ends with a cataclysmic conclusion as Devdas dies at Paro's doorstep.
Set in Calcutta (now Kolkata), in the 1880s during the British Raj, Rabindranath Tagore's Gora is a classic. It is based on two parallel love stories of Gora and Sucharita, and Binoy and Lolita in the backdrop of politics, society and religion. Gora was translated into English by WW Pearson in 1924.
A Very Strange Man
Ismat Chughtai, an acclaimed author, wrote books on themes of feminism and class conflict. She wrote Ajeeb Aadmi in the early 1970s and based the story on two fictional characters - Dharam Dev, a famous personality from the Hindi film industry in Bombay and his extramarital affair with an actress, Zareen Jamal. Ajeeb Aadmi was translated from Urdu to English by Tahira Naqvi.
Set in Tamil Nadu in the tenth century, Ponniyin Selvan is a historical Tamil novel by Kalki Krishnamurthy. It narrates the story of Arulmozhivarman, who later became the great Chola emperor Rajaraja Chola I. Translated to English by Pavithra Srinivasan, Fresh Floods is the first part of the five volumes of Ponniyin Selvan.
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