Saturday, December 23, 2006

We the people...

These are words that many Indians will be familiar with. For those who are now, this are the first three words of the Indian Constitution (as it is of the US Constitution). This also happens to be the tagline of one of the decent movies with Shahrukh Khan -- "Swades."

But really that's hardly what I wanted to bore you with. If you ever doubt you are an Indian, there are some things that will give you a clue.

* Almost all Indians despise broccoli -- the (abominable) vegetable.
* Every other Indian knows who P.G. Wodehouse is, and if you know who Psmith is, you are almost definitely from India.
* All Indians have read Tintin, and many of them have even read Asterix. If you think you would have a good chance at "Who wants to be a millionaire" if the questions were all about Tintin -- I assure you, you must check your ancestory because you will find Indian blood there somewhere.
* If you have heard about Malgudi and you remember the fabulous Shankar Nag television serial on the book, you are decidedly an Indian, how much ever you may be ignoring it.

New Yorker recently had an article on R.K. Narayanan. I loved the article, because it was a pleasure to see an American magazine write about him. In India, I remember reading about him every once in a while in the Times of India.

My first experience with Malgudi was through the ever reliable Doordarshan in India -- the only television channel in the 80s. The other times were through occasional stories we had to read ("The Astrologer's Day" comes to mind) as a part of our school work. However as my interest in reading grew out of Alistair Macleans and Clive Cusslers, at some point I discovered R. K. Narayanan. His "Swami and Friends" remains one of my personal favorites ot this day. RKN had the singular ability to present several constrasting perspectives at the same time -- so much so that every thing he wrote felt real. Swami's experiences, somehow, never felt like fiction. His fears, his thoughts were incredibly genuine. Swamy to me in many ways was a more familiar answer to the other loveable character from literatur -- Tom Sawyer.

If you are ever looking for a literature from India written in English, I highly recommend you find yourself Swami and Friends by R.K. Narayanan. I also highly recommend the TV series Malgudi Days, but the DVD has only a small number of episodes. The episodes on Swamy's adventures are a lot more enjoyable, though.

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