Sunday, May 1, 2011

List: India Portrayed the Best

As you might know, the first sunday of each month is list day, and now its time to do my list day for May. On list day,  I list a few great books on a particular topic if you want something to add to your reading list. I hope you enjoy this! :)  

Today my list is on books that portrayed India the best. It has been said about India that, "But nothing in India is identifiable, the mere asking of a question causes it to disappear or to merge in something else." (E. M. Forster). Thus, it is really hard for any author to portray the essence of India in a few hundred or even a few thousand pages. The books ahead are books that I feel do justice to an almost impossible task. They are on different topics - love, politics, corruption, the Indian underworld - and from the books in my list, one is written by an author raised mostly in India, another by a non-Indian, and a third by someone who no longer even lives in India - and yet, each of these books manages to capture most admirably the soul of India, which is why I have loved all of them. 

India Portrayed the Best

A Suitable Boy: A Novel (Modern Classics)ShantaramThe White Tiger: A Novel

(Note: The books are in no particular order.) 

1. A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth) 
Plot: Set in post-independence India in the 1950s, A Suitable Boy is the story of one girl - Lata - and her quest to find a husband, among four inter-connected families of India. Through the story of her search and her family, Seth manages to convey various aspects of Indian life - politics, corruption, love, rural life, friendship, music, art and family. A Suitable Boy might be set in the 1950s, but the best part about it is that even today, one can identify with all the conditions and characters - even as we learn a little about the problems faced by post-independence India in its struggle for identity. 
Read my full review here. 
Why should you read it? Excellent writing, beautifully etched characters, and one of the best portrayals of India I have ever read - it is a book to warm your heart and change your life. 
Don't believe me? You don't have to. Read this, or this or this or this
Why you may not like it? Well, it gets really, really long. Its hard for most people to get through (though it really pays off) - and having such a large scale, everyone develops their own favorite characters, which means others get neglected a bit (by you, not the author).

A Suitable Boy: A Novel (Modern Classics)

2. Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts)  
Plot: In Shantaram, Lin, an escaped convict from an Australian prison, lands up in India, and finds himself at home. Here he will find love, live in the slums, work as a slum doctor, go live in a village, join the mafia, fight in Afghanistan, do a number of illegal things, get caught by Indian police and abused in Indian police, be betrayed and hurt - and even work in a bollywood film. Along the way, he gives us a beautiful glimpse into India, and makes you fall in love with the same. 
Read my full review here
Why should you read it? Written like poetry, with a great cast, a fascinating plot, and the a portrayal of India that can make you fall in love with the country even as you see the darkest parts of it. 
Don't believe me? Maybe this, this or this will be able to convince you. 
Why you may not like it? It gets way too poetic at parts, and once again, it is big enough to put off most readers.   

3. White Tiger (Aravind Adiga) 
Plot: White Tiger is the story of one Balram Halwai - a boy from a small village in the 'darkness' who somehow makes his way into the big city, and works there as a driver. Only, Balram is an entrepreneur, and he longs to break free from this life of servitude. And through his letters to the Chinese Premier, we learn exactly how he does this - and what it takes to be a White Tiger (or a unique person) in the corruption-ridden  reality of India. 
Read my full review here
Why you should read it? The book is depressing, but its also about courage in the face of unbelievable odds, about taking difficult decisions and living through them, and about being a white tiger - someone who comes along just once in a generation. It is a book about change, and progress at its core - in a very uplifting way - and a book that I think all Indians should read
Don't believe me? Read this, this or this
Why you may not like it? Well, people have told me that the book is absolutely disgusting, written by a person who doesnt understand India, and has a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist. 

The White Tiger: A Novel


Well, that's it for this round! If you feel another book shouldve made the cut, share it with me and my readers...happy reading! 


  1. Excellent Choice of contemporary writing.
    How about some older books.

  2. I have the first 2 books, yet to get the third one. I am a little wary about award winning books.

  3. Agree with the first two choices, but not the third. I have always been skeptical about the success of TWT.

    Suggestions if you ask? I will go for 'The Maximum City' by Suketu Mehta.

  4. @Vikram: It was just books I'd actually read...could you suggest a few that might be good?

    @Reema: Well, I was too. But I think somewhere in that story was a harsh truth that was too real to ignore.

    @Bastab: Well, I guess we will have to agree to disagree then? Because while I didnt actually like white tiger, I did think it portrayed India well.

    And I must check that one out. :)

  5. Shantram is an absolutely inspiring piece of literature ...........

  6. There are quite a lot of other books also, like 'God of Small Things','Midnight's Children, all Rohinton Mistry books,'Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand, 'Inheritance of loss', and there are many more!!!!!!!!!!! The list is exhaustive

  7. @Utsav: I agree.
    @Aakanksha: That may be so, I havent read any of these except for Inheritance of Loss, and while it was awesome it did not make the cut for this list (for me).

  8. Try "Sacred Games" by Vikram Chandra!!


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