Shristichhaada is a Bengali word that means the one who is abandoned by civilization..
This note is especially for Ritwik because he tagged me in a note which I could not respond to as a comment. The note pertains to one Ms Amrita Dutta’s opinion on a series of books that Shristhi is publishing on romances of young men, from Class X to being new recruits in IT companies via IIT. These paperback books are priced at Rs 99, half A 4 sized newsprint paper and font size twelve of Times New Roman. The style of writing is conversational and flows along as the protagonist tells his story to a confidante rather than being pieces of writing for a reader of literature. These books neither claim to be conventional literature nor are they such works. The publisher’s ideal is Chetan Bhagat as he brings out the present series. All the writers are invariably first timers. With all of this, Ms Dutta has a distinct problem.
The core of Ms Dutta’s problems lies in her definition of literature that excludes anything outside the modern and post modern novels. Clearly, the genre that she finds problematic is one that fits neither category. Shristi’s male charged eroticism is a class by itself, an invention by the publisher to create a whole new way of story telling and in this new way we suspect a shift in ‘gaze’ from intending the female reader towards the male reader. Novels, as grandparents always would object, were especially meant for girls and women who could find in the printed pages just those men that were never to exist in reality. In such novels, women could invest their emotions and get returns, again an economy denied to them in real lives. Out of such issues that were centred mainly on women the form of the novel developed. This was largely the modern novel.
In the days of Amitav Ghosh, Rana Dasgupta, Khalid Hosseini and Chitra Banerjee Divakurni, the post modern novel developed, largely out of Asia and Latin America telling us tales of those civilizations ravaged by internal strife and razed by globalization. Post modern novel took a long time to be recognized and hence the Nobel prize for Marquez was such a relief, because were he not awarded thus, the post modern novel would not have got the kind of legitimacy that it has today. But then came the “trash” that crashed the form of the novel, namely in the form of Chetan Bhagat, who disturbed the “ways of writing”.
Almost like twitterature or the Ramayana through facebook, Bhagat’s novels were non literatures. Yet, there was certain flair in them they changed the gaze from girls in the attic to boys in the bathroom. These novels were meant for boys, of their secret lives, their fantasies, their growing up and their resistance to their gender stereotypes. Novels written thus from such a new angle and because this time it was the boy’s perspective, such novels had none of the neatness or closures of the girl’s point of view. Sociologically novels such as the one that Ms Dutta discredits can actually be important because gender roles are fast changing in the world as men take on domestic chores, bring up children and are often single parents. Male sexuality need to be explored as men head indoors and women must get more space in the public sphere and as a result of which must have more say in private and intimate affairs. This shake up in spheres of men and women, the interchanging roles, the blurring power sites and renewed investments in emotions and intimacy need a new novel form. Till we have something better the novels of Shristi can be at least satisfy that need among the readers.