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The age of the Indian author

Oct 11, 2006 10:46 PM IST India India

New Delhi/ New York: Kiran Desai has become the youngest woman to have won the Booker Prize, a mantle previously held by yet another Indian author, Arundhati Roy who bagged the Booker for her debut novel The God Of Small Things in 1997.

Desai's mother Anita Desai was nominated for the Booker thrice, and it was Salman Rushdie, an author of Indian origin, who won the Booker of Bookers in 1993 for Midnight's Children.

Indian authors haven’t limited themselves to the Booker though: Jhumpa Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Interpreter of Maladies in 2000 and Hari Kunzru was named one of Granta's 20 Best Fiction Writers Under 40 in 2003.

Not just awards but money too that is pushing the pen in Indian writing. Vikram Seth secured an advance of an estimated 1.4 million pounds for Two Lives, and more recently Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games managed an advance of $1 million. So is Indian writing in English now a force to reckon with? Or simply put, is chutnified English and spiced up tales of the diaspora in fashion?

Senior UN official and writer Shashi Tharoor doesn’t think so. “It's great to see a bright, young Indian writer honoured in this way and I am very pleased. I think that it is in many ways a tribute to the individual quality of an individual writer, but I can't help feeling that all Indian writers are going to feel bucked by this honour today,” he said.

If India's independence was the the key to Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Desai's The Inheritance of Loss is set in the mid-1980s oscillating between India and New York.

From Lahiri to Roy, a number of Indian authors are telling Indian stories, drawing on their very Indianess, the country's colonial past, the Indian immigrant's trials and tribulations...and the publishers and the public are loving it.

Ironically, the writers we like to boast of as our prized Indian authors aren't permanent Indian residents: Rushdie, Seth, Lahiri, Desai, Amitav Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry, Rana Dasgupta and Hari Kunzru.

(With inputs from Vanita Singh)