Being a writer takes a lot of writing talent of course. But more than that, it requires the ability to make your readers a part of the story you created. The words have to be woven in a way that they’d tug at the heart of the audience. Through your pen, you paint the reality of the world and offer it on a platter to the same world to see its beauty and flaws.
With literary appreciation and various awards, women writers in India have been narrating their stories for a while now. They’ve managed to make us feel love, loss and nostalgia while also bringing out the beautiful social fabric of multiple Indian communities, as well as their cultural problems.
If you love books, you should definitely pick up a book by these ladies to discover a whole new world of storytelling:
1. Jhumpa Lahiri
As the daughter of Indian immigrants residing in the US, Jhumpa Lahiri’s work revolves around the dilemmas of the Indian community staying overseas. From the generational differences to the complicated identity issues, she covers it all.
Mostly known as the author of The Namesake, there is much more to Jhumpa Lahiri apart from that one book. In fact, you should definitely pick up Interpreter of Maladies. It was her very first book and well, it fetched her the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction! Now, that speaks a lot about how prolific a writer she is.
2. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Being a story-teller is one thing but being able to retell an already told story takes a lot of skill. Chitra has excelled at both of them. While a lot of people recommend The Palace of Illusions by her, an interesting retelling of Mahabharata from Draupadi’s point of view, we say you also give The Mistress of Spices a read.
The novel is about an Indian woman who finds herself in America and starts dealing in spices. In fact, Chitra has also written some academic books like Multitude:Cross Cultural Readings for Writers and is a renowned academic personality.
3. Arundhati Roy
The author deals with human emotions in the most real fashion and intertwines those very emotions with social issues. Her debut novel,The God of Small Things, was such a success because of exactly that.
The story revolved around a family in Kerala and dealt with issues of caste differences, communism and incest. She came up with her book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, only much later and it has already been getting great reviews. It deals with the controversial subject of the Godhra train burning and makes for an excellent read.
4. Kiran Desai
The daughter of author Anita Desai, Kiran has a way of narrating stories that will tug at your heart for a long time. Her second book, The Inheritence of Loss, won her a Man Booker Prize and for good reason.
The story is about Biju and Sai. While Biju is an illegal immigrant in America, Sai is a girl who stays with her grandfather in India. It talks about the effects of colonialism and the tiff between the past and the present. However, we recommend you read her first book, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard. The main character is a man living in Punjab who is trying to run away from the responsibilities of adulthood. A book that was appreciated by Salman Rushdie himself, it makes for a great read for millennials.
5. Indira Goswami
Indira suffered from depression for a long time and made multiple attempts to take her own life. Writing for her was, admittedly, a reason to live. While her own story is quite sad, her writing is prolific. She takes a human approach to some of the tragedies faced by India as a nation.
Pages Stained With Blood is about the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 for which she did a lot of research by going to the affected areas. In The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker, she paints a picture of the Assamese Brahmin widows in Satra, the religious institutions of Assam. While she has written a lot of books, these two remain classics that continue to haunt us.
6. Anuja Chauhan
From “Yeh dil maange more’ to “Darr ke aage jeet hai,” we’ve all grown up repeating phrases by her. However, it was her novel The Zoya Factor, the story of a girl working in advertising who becomes the lucky mascot of the Indian Cricket team that really brought out her writing talent.
While it is easy to tag her as a chick lit author, the truth is that she does provide a twist to every tale she tells. Hence, when Battle For Bittora about Jinni’s sudden shift from Mumbai to her hometown Bittora came out, people could not help but applaud the readability factor along with the great narration.
7. Ismat Chugtai
Ismat Chugtai was one of those women who thought way beyond the era she lived in. Her short stories are the most famous and the reason for that is the way they she manages to capture the Indian culture.
A short story by her that you should definitely read is Lihaaf, a story that inspired the movie Fire. An allusion to a homosexual relationship between two women, it created quite a stir. What you’ll appreciate the most is how she never out rightly says anything and keeps the allusion alive.
8. Judy Balan
While being funny may seem like an easy task, the truth is that it is not. And to come up with a whole novel laced with some kick-ass humour is one great achievement. Judy Balan is famous for writing Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce, a parody of Chetan Bhagat’s Two States. If you also hate bad literature and would like to have a good laugh about those who write it, go ahead and pick this one up.
9. Lavanya Sankaran
Lavanya’s work has travelled various countries, being translated into multiple languages. The reason for her success is her art of storytelling. Her debut novel, The Hope Factory, was at the top spot on Amazon India.
The simple story of a small factory owner who finds himself lost when urban forces make things out of control. His house help, Kamla, is also struggling to send her son to school for she wants a better future for him. The heartbreaking tale of poverty and broken dreams gives the picture of the real India. The Red Carpet, a short story collection, also spent two years in best-seller lists and is a wonderful read if you’re into short fiction.
10. Anita Desai
Mother to Booker-prize winner Kiran Desai, Anita Desai herself is a renowned author, something that has won her the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Literature. While the author has written a lot of books, all of different genres and equally well executed, you should pick up In Custody. The story is that of an old Urdu poet who doesn’t know who will keep the language alive after him. A story of culture and loss, every Indian will manage to connect with it.
11. Anita Nair
She wrote her first book, Satyr of the Subway, while she was working as a creative director at an advertising agency. It won her a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. After working on her craft, her work became more famous and has now been translated into 21 languages.
Her book, Ladies Coupe, is one book every Indian lady should pick up. A middle-aged woman is on a journey to Kanyakumari where she ends up swapping stories with 5 other women. The beautiful narration will leave you with more than just some inspiration.
12. Kamala Das
A writer too bold for her times, Kamala Das has been recognized for her writing prowess only recently. From dealing with the question of identity to love out of marriage, she deals beautifully with topics too controversial. While her poems are a must-read for all Indian women, you can also pick up My Story, her autobiography. It captures the struggle of being a progressive woman in India quite perfectly.
13. Mahasweta Devi
To give only a couple of recommendations by her would definitely be of no use. Mahasweta Devi was a literary gem and she enriched the Indian literature with her contributions. She wrote over 100 books in her lifetime and being a social activist, her books do cover issues faced by Indians.
Read Hajar Churashir Maa or No. 1084’s Mother, the story of a mother whose son, corpse number 1084, was killed by the state because of his political views. If you’re not ready for a heavy read, make sure you pick up at least a short story by her.
14. Amrita Pritam
Amrita Pritam was primarily a poet, writing about love and political turmoil with equal ease. But she has written a number of novels as well which capture human emotions beautifully.
Pick up Pinjar to know what women went through during the Partition period. Puro is kidnapped by a Muslim man, Rashid, and her parents refuse to take back the girl who has been ‘defiled.’ The ending is something that will definitely make you shed a tear.