KIRAN DESAI AS A NOVELIST: DR. HARESHWAR ROY
The post - independence Indian English fiction has seen quite a large crop of new and interesting writers. Their works are firmly based on social realism. Writers like Bhavani Bhattacharya, Manohar Malgonkar and Khushwant Singh appeared on the scene in the fifties of the last century. Quite a number of women novelists also emerged. Jhabvala, Kamala Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal and Anita Desai are notable among them. This development has continued ever since and one can discover many new voices. The most striking among them is Kiran Desai, the third recipient of Man Booker Prize after Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy.
Kiran is a true achiever in the real sense of the term. Born in India in 1971, she shifted her base to England at the age of 14 before moving to the USA. She was educated in India, England and the US. Her mother, Anita Desai is a noted writer. Therefore, to enter the field of writing was very easy for her. Her first novel appeared as Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard in 1998. It is a fresh look at life in the sleepy provincial town of Shahkot in India. This book garnered vast acclaim. Her second sweeping novel, The Inheritance of Loss won the world's most prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2006. The daughter has won where the mother could not succeed. This novel is set in the mid 1980s in a Himalayan village. It is largely based on the living between East and West, between past and present.
Kiran walked in the footsteps of her mother. Her mother is more interested in the interior landscape of the mind. Writing for her was an effort to convey the true significance of things. Her novels deal with the problems of existence. Her characters were those for whom aloneness alone is the natural condition. The daughter continued along the contours marked by her mother. But she is perhaps more interested in social and political upheavals. She apparently sees everything from an Indian perspective. She has written a globalised narrative about the anxiety of being a foreigner. She offers an indictment of a capitalist system that has managed to crush the national and the racial identity. She is critical to the Western culture and practices.
Kiran’s plot construction, colorful art of characterization and fantastic use of language are always appreciated. Her works have wide range of characters. They are entwined neatly in a complex plot line. Her novels are powered by a superb language- assured and eloquent, supple and elegant. It is flowing, clear and visual. She is the mistress of devastating wit and charming style. She uses multiple question marks and exclamation marks throughout the text. Like Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, The Inheritance of Loss abounds in rich, sensual descriptions. To some extent her novels have autobiographical touch. In short, Kiran has the amazing capacity to breathe life into the page.
The Inheritance of Loss is set in the foot of the Himalayas. It arrests natural beauty, alternating between sadness and joy, hope and dejection. The backdrop of the novel is the Gorkha movement for self rule in the Darjeeling area. Kiran Desai is more interested in the people affected by the movement than the movement itself. So it is a poignant story of the common people. The Inheritance of Loss is much more ambitious than Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard in its spatial breadth and emotional depth. It takes on huge subjects such as morality and justice, globalisation, racial, social and economic inequality, immigration and alienation, fundamentalism and multiculturalism. She illuminates the pain of exile and the ambiguities of post- colonialism.
Thus Kiran Desai is one of the greatest novelists of Indian Diaspora. She sets her novels in India. She apparently sees everything from an Indian perspective. Her contribution to the world of fiction is, no doubt, the subject of appreciation. Her achievement not only fetched fame and admiration for her but also to the whole of India.