Apr/May 2015  •   Reviews & Interviews

Granta 130: INDIA: Another Way of Seeing

Review by Ann Skea

Granta 130: INDIA: Another Way of Seeing.
Ian Jack, Editor.
Granta. 2015. 288 pp.
ISBN 978 1 905 881 85 7.

Welcome back, Ian Jack! As a guest editor Ian Jack has done what he always did when he was permanent editor of Granta. He has produced an issue which is varied, absorbing, informative and a real pleasure to read.

INDIA: Another Way of Seeing offers reportage, memoir, biography, history, art, fiction and poetry, and the intention was to find Indian writers who can present India as it is today, not as writers like Forster or Naipaul have depicted it. This goal seems to have been achieved admirably.

I particularly enjoyed the poetry, and Karthika Naïr's reworking of the Mahabarata in "Shakuna: Blood Count" is exciting and offers a wonderful balancing of this male-orientated heroic drama. It begins:

Shakama, Sister, why
the need for dazed allegiance
to men? We're canis
lupus first, familiaris
can come later—if it must.

As in any country, gender issues, however, come in many forms. Aman Sethi's report on "Love Jihad" for example, describes an Indian cultural divide with deeply historical roots but horribly modern relevance. And Kalpana Narayanan's short story, "The Bachelor Father', offers another perspective on male/female interactions.

Sam Miller's account of Ghandi's life in London is revealing. As is Samanth Subramanian's investigation of the power plays of one of Mumbai's newly wealthy elite and the way they have changed the old colonial Breach Candy Swimming Bath Trust.

Amongst the fiction, Arun Kolatkar's "Sticky Fingers" is one of the many Balwant Bua stories he based on "talk sessions" with the eponymous singer raconteur who died in 1974. Balwant Bua talked of human behavior and the life around him, and Kolatkar's story, one of only six which he wrote in English, rather than his native Marathi, beautifully captures Bua's story-telling style and humor.

"Othello Sucks," which is Upamanyu Chatterjee's "radio play"/ "comic strip"/ non-fiction/fiction (as he describes it) is innovative and hilarious. He immerses the reader in the disorganized but very real life of an Indian family in which a teenage daughter is doing what teenagers everywhere do and the family are suffering, but not in silence. I wished this piece had been longer.

Amitava Kumar writes of his return from America to attend his mother's funeral pyre. Raghu Karnad ponders the sightings of a Kimono-clad ghost at the Red Fort in Delhi and traces the forgotten history of Japanese internees there during WW2. Hari Kunzru creates a strange Indian future governed by Seth, "lord of change, emperor of process." Katherine Boo's notes provide the necessary back-story to her photographs of families in the Mumbai slum of Annawadi. And photographer, Gauri Gill, collaborates with the Warli artist, Rajesh Vangad, to create an interesting selection of very unusual pictures. There are other excellent stories and poems, and original art work is interspersed between the prose throughout the magazine.

Altogether, this Issue shows an India which is diverse, creative, aware of its history and also thoroughly modern. This is a good and very satisfying edition of Granta.


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