Over 100 writers from India and the diaspora come together in an anthology to celebrate India at 75 | Books and Literature News,The Indian Express

Writers, including Anita Desai, Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Geetanjali Shree, Perumal Murugan and others, have expressed their hopes and concerns about the future of the world’s largest democracy in the project commissioned by PEN America

“Then, in the First Age of Hindustan Hamara, our India, we celebrated one another’s festivals, and believed, or almost believed, that all of the land’s multifariousness belonged to all of us. Now that dream of fellowship and liberty is dead, or close to death. A shadow lies upon the country we loved so deeply. Hindustan isn’t hamara any more. The Ruling Ring — one might say — has been forged in the fire of an Indian Mount Doom. Can any new fellowship be created to stand against it?” writes Mumbai-born-New York-based writer Salman Rushdie in a special anthology commissioned by PEN America to mark India at 75.

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The organisation that promotes freedom of expression through the confluence of literature and human rights had reached out to authors in India and from the Indian diaspora to write short texts expressing their thoughts on India on the country’s 75th anniversary. More than 100 authors, including this year’s International Booker Prize winner Geetanjali Shree, Gyan Prakash, Nayantara Sahgal, Romila Thapar, Rajmohan Gandhi, Ganesh Devy, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Amit Chaudhuri, Akshaye Mukul, Raghu Karnad and others, came forward to contribute to the project. Besides Rushdie, who, incidentally, is recovering from a recent life-threatening attack on him in western New York, other diasporic writers who are part of the anthology include Anita Desai, Amitava Kumar, Suketu Mehta, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai, Vijay Seshadri, Sujatha Gidla, Preti Taneja and Karthika Naïr. Young poets and writers such as Akhil Katyal, Aanchal Malhotra, Yashica Dutt, too, are part of the anthology.

“Authors who were born in British India responded, as did India’s Midnight’s Children and grandchildren. Authors from around the globe sent us their thoughts, as did authors from India’s many languages, communities, faiths and castes. Some voices are optimistic, some prayerful, some anguished and enraged. Some suggest defeat, others venture hope, still others are defiant. The authors hold a spectrum of political views, and may be in disagreement about much else, but they are united in their concern for the state of Indian democracy,” the introduction to the anthology notes.

“…The country I was born in was a country torn asunder, it’s true, but growing up in it, I felt — even very young, very immature — a sense of its difference from other countries. It was a bold experiment, an exercise in democracy and nation-building that was grounded in principles that, politically speaking, were certainly quite new: non-violent co-existence; non-alignment; non-communal; egalitarian; plural in a still semi-feudal society. In hindsight, it strikes me that perhaps that was a “womanist” way of defining oneself and one’s place in the world. Accommodative, not maximalist. What worries me about the hyper-masculinism that now holds sway, is that it conceals a deep insecurity. My country now has such a diminished sense of itself that it is ill at ease with a capacious and confident embracing of difference. Fueled by testosterone it demands compliance with cast-iron definitions of self and other, flexing its muscles against anyone who deplores and decries this puny redefinition of itself. I had thought we would grow old gracefully together, my country and I. Instead I worry that the India I will die in might become the kind of country I may not want to be born in,” writes Delhi-based feminist publisher and writer, Ritu Menon, Delhi-based feminist publisher and writer.


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