Amrita at Indiequill - also a fine editor for Desicritics with a penchant for saving my particularly bad titles - asked me to compile a list of books by Indian authors that I have read and would like to read.
I've been reading long enough that it would take me days to list out stuff I've read by Indian authors. Plus, I'm a very scatter shot reader, not to mention somewhat lazy. So instead I decided to forgo an impressive list like Amrita's and focused on just one entry in each area: a book by an Indian author that I've read that runs the deepest with me and another that I have been dying to read but haven't for sheer lack of courage.
I first read Kamala Markandaya's Nectar in a Sieve via an extract in Salman Rushdie's Mirrorwork: 50 Years of Indian Writing 1947-1997. I stopped right after that chapter and didn't read another thing until I located the book and read it cover to cover.
I've heard Nectar being dissed in multiple ways - its irrelevance has been tied to the sati-savitri Rukmani - who is its primary inhabitant. But it shows why reading is such a personal choice: you never know what you connect with. I can't remember a single moment when reading Nectar that I didn't have a lump in my throat yet felt exhilarated. There is gorgeous agony in this book, an impending sense of doom that you surrender to willingly.
By contrast, I've been dragging my feet with Raj Kamal Jha's allegorical novel - Fireproof - set amidst and in the aftermath of the horrific Gujarat bloodletting of 2002 that followed the Godhra train burning. Twice I've picked it up in a bookstore and read a few pages. Each time it brought such jitters to my heart that I placed it back on the shelf. Even Jha's cover haunts me - stripped of the book's title or the name of its author, its a picture of a frosted glass with the words "Help me" scrawled from the inside.
I'll read it someday - of that I'm sure - but because it is about something shameful so close to home it will take time to muster the courage.