New Login   

Mixed Fare

Paromita Chakravarti

Penguin Books, Delhi, 2006, pp. 288, Rs. 275.00


The second volume of Penguin’s annual anthology of new writing from India which came out in 2006 showcases a range of exciting and original work. It certainly introduces ‘new writing’ although not necessarily new writers—many of the contributors appear to be established writers with several literary awards to their credit.   However, First Proof (2) does live up to its promise of presenting a wide generic spectrum. Formatted to open at/from both ends, the reader can begin with either fiction or non-fiction and make her way into the middle of the book which contains poetry. But in fact the mixed nature of many of the pieces challenge the categories of fiction and non-fiction and deploy experimental forms which blur the lines of difference. For instance, Arunava Sinha’s ‘Apna Desh, Apna Blog’ is a self-reflexive contemplation on the ‘blog’ format. The piece appears to be a transcript of several postings and entries on the internet which record a failed attempt to maintain a web journal or a ‘blog’. It muses on the uniqueness of this cyber-genre which encourages both the revelation and fictionalization of the self, which is both diary and notice board, both an exercise in narcissism as well as an attempt to reach out to others and carry on faceless yet often deeply intimate conversations. Premised on a tension between fact and fiction, public confession and self dramatization blogs appear to be ‘public documents of closet megalomaniacs’ who fail to find any stimulation in the world outside and manufacture experiences only so that they may ‘blog’ about it. Trying to understand this obsession with contentless communication, the author/blogger runs through a whole gamut of possible uses for it and finally fails to find any coherent reason to keep the site running.   Smriti Nevatia’s piece, ‘Urban Dreams’ attempts to capture the nostalgia, fantasy and much of the awkwardness of the studio photo through an anecdotally rich ‘Photo-essay’ structured as a journey through the old studios of India. Salman Haider’s ‘Family’ captures a slice of North Indian political life in the early twentieth century which reflects the nationalist struggle, the Aligarh Movement, the Communist Movement and issues of Muslim identity and women’s education. The piece indicates ways in which personal memoirs can become important historical documents. Ranjana Sengupta’s urban historical piece, ‘Delhi’s Last Conquerors’ on the post-partition refugee experience in Delhi combines scholarship and ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.