If there is a line that divides classes in India, it's English: Tarun Tejpal
Jan 21, 2012
By Lakshmi Chaudhry and Sandip Roy
Editor's note: The Jaipur Literature Festival, widely acknowledged as
India's premier literary festival got underway at the Diggi Palace on
Friday. The festival made headlines well ahead of its inauguration
largely due to the furore over Salman Rushdie's proposed visit.
However the festival also features a star studded line-up with notable
names such as David Remnik, Ben Okri, Deepak Chopra and Nilanjana Roy.
The panel is titled Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The Chutneyfication of
English. It has Gurcharan Das , Tarun Tejpal, Rita Kothari on the
panel. The sesssion is moderated by Ira Pande.
In a twenty-eight-year career as a journalist, Tarun Tejpal is the
founder of Tehelka, which has garnered international fame for its
aggressive public interest journalism. His debut novel, The Alchemy of
Desire, was hailed by the Sunday Times as "an impressive and memorable
debut". His second novel, The Story of My Assassins, was published in
2009 to rave reviews. His latest book,The Valley of Masks, has been
longlisted for the Man Booker Asia Prize.
Gurcharan Das is the author of The Difficulty of Being Good: On the
Subtle Art of Dharma. His past works include, India Unbound, A Fine
Family (a novel); The Elephant Paradigm; and an anthology, Three
English Plays. He studied philosophy at Harvard University, and was
CEO Procter & Gamble India before he took early retirement to become a
Rita Kothari is author of Translating India: The Cultural Politics of
English, The Burden of Refuge: Sindh, Gujarat, Partition, andMemories
and Movements: Borders and Communities in Banni, Kutch,
Gujarat(forthcoming). She has translated the Gujarati Dalit novel,
Angaliyat:The Stepchild, and Speech and Silence: Literary Journeys
byGujarati Women, Unbordered Memories : Partition Stories from Sindh,
and is co-translator ofModern Gujarati Poetry: A Selection, and Coral
Island: The Poetry of Niranjan Bhagat.
Tarun Tejpal says problem with writing in English is that language is
not created to carry reality of India. AFP
Ira Pande's memoir of her mother, the famous Hindi writer Shivani,
published by Penguin-India in 2005, was shortlisted in the best
non-fiction category of the Crossword-Vodafone award in 2006. She has
also translated Manohar Shyam Joshi's Hindi novella, T-ta Professor,
which was awarded both the Crossword-Vodafone award and the Sahitya
Akademi award for the best translated work into English for 2010.
3: 45 pm Tarun Tejpal says problem with writing in English is that
language is not created to carry reality of India. English is a
language of irony, understatement, cool. The reality in India is
opposite — it's melodramatic and noisy. In that sense Indian cinema is
far more in sync with the reality of India.
Gurcharan Das disagrees with Tejpal. He says that previous generation
was devastated by not knowing English well enough. The new generation
does not care how they speak. He narrates the story of a low caste
boy Raju who tells him the secret of life. "First learn Windows. Then
400 words of English. Enough to pass TOEFL." The average Indian is
Raju, says Das. "He does not care how he speaks. English is going down
socio-economic ladder. We need to produce a Shakespeare of Hinglish.
And that is not Midnight's Children. Rushdie liberated Indian
literature but it is not Hinglish."
Tejpal says, "Too many Rajus were devastated by not knowing English."
He says English remains an aspirational language. According to Tejpal
ambivalence towards English is lessening because it is seen as
language of success. He feels that explains why writers who write in
English get 50 times the advance than those who don't and not
necessarily because they are better writers.
Rushdie was supposed to be on this panel. He coined the term
chutneyfication. But his spirit hovers over the panel. The panelists
all refer to him. Tejpal says his (Rushdie's) later books are more of
caricature because when you live so far from sound of street it is
hard to replicate, unlike Midnight where his memories of growing up in
Bombay served him well.
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