Has India really reached the nadir in terms of good reading? Going by this article, we actually have, and if we do not change the way our people read, pronto, there isn’t much hope for the future of books. It is true that Chetan Bhagat has taken the markets over like no other Indian writer has been able to do in recent times, and it doesn’t bode well for our literary traditions.
However, I do find this article a little exaggerated, because we enjoy all kinds of reading. It didn’t go down very well with me, because we have varied tastes in reading, and the classics in India are definitely not dead. (And an article that mentions a certain “PJ Wodehouse” definitely raises eyebrows.)
‘Mr. Singh’s statement of their target audience being “single working woman who has money in her hands, the liberty to read, no responsibilities yet, no husband, children” reeks of sexism. I am a middle-class woman who would fit the bill perfectly, and so are many of my friends, but we do not necessarily depend on Mills & Boon for literary sustenance (and no, we’re not literature students). Give us literature, imagery and brilliant writing any day, because we revel in the language and would rather exercise our brains than choose to entertain ourselves with potboilers of the Bollywood kind. I don’t know if the reference to a particular sex is intentional, but I am interested in what middle-class Indian men choose to read- they’re also a market, aren’t they? We aren’t desperate women trying to find succour and food for our imagination in saccharine, sappy love stories.’
(This is an extract from an email I have sent to the books editor of the Guardian. I am interested in how well researched this article is- have all these conclusions been drawn just from a visit to one book fair and interviews with the publishers who sell cheaper, more readable books?)