Mahesvari during her interview with Tell me Your Story

Thank you @Koral Dasgupta and @Tell Me Your Story for giving me the opportunity to share my views on contemporary Indian literature together with panelists Suhail Mathur and Sidharth Jain.

I believe that the relevance of mythological fiction or historical fiction is huge. These fascinating stories reconnect with the younger generation of the Indian diaspora in an accessible and elegant way. In my opinion the presence of historical fiction in contemporary literature is a continuation of an age-old tradition of retelling ancient stories. 

Ramayana traveled to Suriname

To emphasize with this relevance I shared the story of my ancestors. They left India around 1873 to start a new life in South-America, in a tropical country named Suriname. One of the few valuable things that they carried with them, on this journey to an unknown continent and country, was the Ramayana written in Brij Bhasa (Folk Hindi) by Goswami Tulsidas. This popular historical story had a major impact on my community on a social and cultural level. Till date the Sarnami-Hindustani community have organized Ramlila in Suriname and The Netherlands. 

Ramanand Sagar

My passion for contemporary literature was ignited by watching the television series of Ramanand Sagar. I watched his version of the Ramayana in the 80’s when I was just a toddler. The stories, characters and the need to know more about them became a lifelong quest to understand the stories behind the main story. 

Mythological and historical books even inspired me to develop the theatre program Many Faces of Love which will be performed next year 13 February in de Doelen, Rotterdam by Shivali Bhammer, Diepak Ramjiawan and Annelieke Marselje. 

How to make Indian literature mainstream

I truly believe that there is a market for contemporary Indian literature in Europe. Just like there is a mainstream market for Hindi films that are being screened in movie theatres. What Indian publishers should do much more is invest in their relations with diaspora influencers, organizations and platforms like DesiYUP. Indian authors are brilliant and there is no lack of great content. With modern communication technology as our best friend we can accomplish a lot together to promote Indian literature in the West. I already engage with my favorite Indian authors through social media! 

Connect with Diaspora Influencers

Mahesvari Autar

Ideally the Indian publishers should consider teaming up with the Diaspora community first to promote mythological and historical books. Once they are on onboard, and the Western publishers get a hint of it, they will definitely tap into the Indian book market much quicker. This idea will work, because it’s also working for other Indian art forms. For more than a decade I’ve been promoting Indian musicians. The majority of these musicians do not even have a European fanbase, but DesiYUP programs them in Dutch theatres and we collaborate with these cultural institutions. 

This is a way to allow mythological and historical retellings to become mainstream. It goes without saying that the Indian literature market will not expand overnight, but if there is a will to collaborate and mutual benefit is in place, the Indian literature market has all the ingredients to flourish in Europe. 

Grassroot promotion campaign

I recently started to promote Indian books on a grassroots level through my platform DesiYUP. The first batch of books are already sold out and that without the marketing/PR machine of an Indian publisher. I work with local suppliers from India to ensure that they also benefit from this endeavor.   

My focus will primarily be books written by female authors that deal with women empowerment topics. It’s great that more Indian ladies are picking up their pen i.e. laptop to speak their minds on mythological and historical stories. Our society needs these retellings to reinstate and reinforce core moral values. 

Watch the one hour panel discussion.

Indian Books & Global Audience. Reviewing Contemporary Literature

Mahesvari Autar, Suhail Mathur, Siddharth Jain in conversation with Aisik Maiti

Geplaatst door Tell Me Your Story op Zondag 28 november 2021

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