Recently I came across an article on Live Mint about how every Tom, Dick and Harry in India has become an author or is trying to become one.
This made me analyse as to why everyone is trying to become an author. And also what is the implication of that for our country in terms of English speaking, writing and reading.
There is a so called proliferation of every author proclaiming himself to be the new “Chetan Bhagat“. Now isn’t that a bit unfair on him? Unfair because despite selling thousands of copies and being regarded as the most famous Indian authors in history in terms of copies sold, he has already copped a lot of criticism from critics and a large number of people alike for the absence of literary delight, simple language and lack of so called “style’ in his stories.
So what is really happening these days in the field of writing?
As pointed out by Karan Bajaj of “Keep of the Grass” and “Johnny Gone Down” fame in his recommendations for getting a book published in India has given a list of publishers one can use for publishing his / her book. HarperCollins, WestLand, Penguin, Rupa and Co are some of the big publishing houses in the country who have publish his books as well as Chetan Bhagat’s and some other famous ones.
And then there are some new publishing houses like Indialog and Shrishti Publications which publish many different kinds of novels from first – time authors (according to some they publish almost anything). Some of the books they have published include “LOVE: An Unusual Romance… and the Mumbai Rain”, “Nothing For You My Dear: Still i Love You….!”, “Patyala Down De Throat: A sweet melody from pegs to riches” etc.
I don’t have anything against any of the writers. But was really interested to study the differences between the first timers and the ones who are established. So what’s the different between the books published by the publishing houses handling famous authors compared to those handling first timers. Two of the biggest differences are in the grammar and the English usage. The books for the first timers are for a mass reader probably one who may / may not be that good in English and doesn’t give that much importance to grammar and things like that. And then the books by Harper, Penguin etc. are also for a much more mature audience and do make you think a bit more than say a “I will love you till I find someone better”. One more problem is the fact that most of the books published by first timers are similar stories as I have always said before having a ‘guy + girl + sex + flirting + college times‘ and nothing new to offer.
Apart from all this there is also another peculiar problem of every book being a bestseller in India. Now as pointed out by Karan Bajaj, in India today if a book sells more than 5000 copies it is regarded as a best seller. Though that is a pretty sad state of affairs it shows that the tagging of a book as a NATIONAL BESTSELLER is being used more as a marketing / advertising tool than anything else.
Two sides of the coin?
Yes I agree that the fact that everyone is writing books currently has degraded the profession of writing as well as English vocabulary and grammar to a great extent. Truth be told! More than 90% of Indian authors what youngsters read today is of the CRAP variety.
But then, if we analyze the reasons why so many Indian authors have come to the fore, the biggest reason is to be popular. In our country be it through Big Boss, KBC, Master Chef, Indian Idol, Cricket through anything everyone wants his / her share of fame and why not. If Chetan Bhagat can do it, why can’t I? And therefore people who know a smattering of English or can read and write a bit are moving to writing stories. And one can’t really fault them. Because such stories are read, more and more of them are published. Only God knows how many are sold. But for sure there is a market.
Final Verdict – Both books of first timers many of whom are grammatically incorrect and books that are much more mature and stylish in their narrative will always coexist. Though yes, the problem may come when people start thinking that good grammar and vocabulary aren’t very important for a novel!