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Vikram Chandra. Sacred Games.

Vikram Chandra. Sacred Games. London / New York. Faber / HarperCollins. 2006/2007 900/916 pages 12.99 [pounds sterling] (paper)/$2795. ISBN 0-571-23119-5/ 0-06-113035-4

INDIAN WRITERS in English, it seems, have shed all their inhibitions and are now boldly dealing with a variety of subjects in the manner of their choosing. Phrases like "colonial conscience," "colonial burden," "colonial mentality," etc., which dominated the thinking of writers and critics alike not very long ago, are no longer relevant, and Indian writers in English are able to find publishers ready to publish what they offer. Luckily, they are also winning laurels.

Vikram Seth and Vikram Chandra have published what might be called the bulkiest novels in recent times. Seth's much-acclaimed novel A Suitable Boy is a huge novel by any standards. So is Chandra's The Red Earth and Pouring Rain, and so is his second novel, Sacred Games, which runs into a full nine hundred pages of small print.

In The Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Chandra assembled a medley of characters--Indian, English, French, and Irish--and gods--Ganesh, Hanuman, and Yama. When Yama, the God of Death, claims his victim, Ganesh and Hanuman intercede, and a reprieve is granted on condition that the reprieve will last as long as stories keep being told, as they do in A Thousand and One Nights. Obviously, the novel is in line with Rushdie's Midnight's Children.

Unexpectedly, Chandra's second novel, Sacred Games, is totally unlike his first. It is about the nether world of crime and corruption, about the cat-and-mouse game played by criminals and the police. Ganesh Gaitonde, a dreaded criminal, first shoots his paramour and then himself as police officer Sartaj Singh and his team close in on his hideout. However, Gaitonde's death continues to haunt the police as they begin to piece together his past. Though the narrative runs along predictable lines, it sizzles with plentiful native abuses and expressions. Perhaps no other Indian writer in English has been so adept at using them so freely. It is for this reason that the publishers have come out with a separate glossary of non-English words in the novel on its website. The ease with which Chandra uses non-English words is a proof that Indian writers in English are now in a position to appropriate the English language and add many words to its vocabulary. It may be recalled here that the Indian writers in English of the earlier generation did not have this freedom, and Mulk Raj Anand had to be content with the infelicitous translation of vernacular slang.

Nevertheless, Indian writing in English is moving ahead.

Ramlal Agarwal

Jalna, Maharashtra, India
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Author:Agarwal, Ramlal
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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