Salman Rushdie made a startling statement a few years ago when he sweepingly declared ‘Indo-Anglian literature represents the most valuable contribution India has yet made to the world of books… the prose writing produced by Indian writers working in English is proving to be a stronger and more important body of work than most of what has been produced in the sixteen official languages of India, the so-called vernacular languages’... Or, in other words, Rushdie means that that the Indians should thank the visionary Lord Macaulay but for whom the Indo-Anglian writing would never have come into being and, as such, poor India would never have been in the literary map of the world. In 1835 perhaps, according to Rushdie, Macaulay said, ‘let there be English’ and a century and forty-six years later, in 1981 there was this post-structuralist postcolonial masterpiece ‘Midnight Children’.
In Mahabharata, a king is advised by his guru, ‘Be a garland-maker, O king!, not a charcoal burner’. What does this mean? One can make a beautiful garland by tying together different kinds of beautiful flowers, and he can burn several types of wood to make charcoal. In a garland, all the flowers, without losing their distinctive identity stay together to present a beautiful picture of the whole. But in charcoal, all the woods are reduced to ashes without any distinctive identity of any of them. So the king is advised to respect the linguistic, religious and cultural diversity of the citizens of his country and not to impose on them a unitary form of Government.
Indian literature is such a garland decorated by the literary works obtained in the various idioms of India, which are disparagingly dismissed by Rushdie as ‘vernacular languages’. The localized and aggressively regionalised fiction in the Indian languages may be incapable of projecting the ‘ mobile, migratory, diasporic and cosmopolitan characters’, as the Indo-Anglian stories do, but by characteristic touches of culture-centric linguistic nuances, they capture the soul of India, whose relevance exists only in its multiple diversities.