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Updated: October 13, 2012 17:43 IST

Where it all began

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Magic Realism and after: Indian English fiction 1981-2011
The Hindu Magic Realism and after: Indian English fiction 1981-2011

An Indian filmmaker's take on the Rushdie phenomenon.

Salman Rushdie will perhaps always be remembered as the man who wrote The Satanic Verses and then spent the rest of his life defending his right to free speech, but his real legacy is Midnight’s Children which made Indian writing in English suddenly fashionable and turned it into a roaring business.

In a week when The Satanic Verses was again in the news, following the release of Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton, about his years on the run after the Iranian fatwa, an Indian critic, writer and film-maker took us back to where his journey began. Suresh Kohli’s film, Magic Realism and after: Indian English fiction 1981-2011, screened at the Nehru Centre in London, assesses the impact of Midnight’s Children on a generation of young Indian writers and how it shaped western perceptions of Indian writing in English through a series of interviews with writers (including Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh and Vikram Seth), critics, literary agents and publishers — both in India and around the world.

“I wanted to explore the phenomenon behind Midnight’s Children, particularly how it influenced a generation of new writers and marked the beginning of what is now known as Indian writing in English,” Kohli said.

He also wanted to probe new trends in Indian writing in English and the concerns of “the younger crop of writers”.

The film, praised for its director’s “fresh vision”, is to be shown in other world capitals.

- Hasan Suroor

A not-so-golden week

A Chinese Holiday the way no one wanted it.

What happens when half a billion people decide to go on holiday at the same time? This is what unfolds every first week of October, known in China as the “Golden Week” — a week-long holiday that the government instituted to mark National Day (and, some economists say, stimulate spending). The result, every year, is seven days of travel chaos that sees China’s road and rail networks stretched to the limit.

This year, the travel week was especially frenzied; the holiday was extended to nine days with the Lunar Mid-Autumn festival falling a day before “Golden Week” began, encouraging more people to go on vacation. The numbers this year were staggering. A record 80 million people travelled by road on every day of the eight-day holiday.

The railway networks carried nine million people on the first day of the week. The commuting was not entirely harmonious: the government recorded 68,400 traffic accidents that killed close to 800 people. With everyone taking off, the streets of Beijing were unusually peaceful. Less so its tourist sites: 182,000 people crammed themselves into the Forbidden City on October 2.

At the Huashan mountain in Shaanxi, a popular destination, tens of thousands were left stranded and demanded refunds, even sparking a riot, after authorities puzzlingly appeared unprepared for the crowds. The only silver lining was a stimulus for the economy: tourism income grew a quarter from last year to US$ 278 million.

“In spite of all the vows and preparations for the past eight hectic days, there were few signs of improvement in the holiday experience,” the China Daily lamented, while many bloggers decided after their travel travails that next year, they would simply stay put at home.

- Ananth Krishnan

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