In India myths comfortably co-exist with reality. That is why Gabo’s works talk straight to our hearts
A demon king blessed with the power to burn anyone whose head he puts his hand on, a women cursed to turn into stone: these characters don’t surprise us Indian readers. We’ve grown up having the stories of Bhasmasur, Ahalya, Takshak and Parikshit read to us on our grandmothers’ knee. Why then would Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ magic realism surprise us.
But yes, it does fascinate. If Jatayu the talking vulture could die fighting Ravan as he abducted Sita on his flying chariot; a woman can most certainly live inside her cat. If the earth could split to swallow Sita when she implored it to, why can’t a woman ascend to heaven while hanging clothes from her wash.
Hindu mythology is rife with stories that go beyond the ordinary and slip into the sublime. No wonder then that Indian readers take to Gabriel García Márquez’ writing so easily. “Magical realism is a way of life for anyone who is even remotely associated with Indian mythology,” agrees Vanitha Poojary, people manager at IBM, Bangalore. An eclectic reader, Vanitha says she is drawn to Marquez’ books because of his compelling story telling and the exploration of solitude.
“As Indians we grow up hearing a lot about myths. Be it well known texts or local ones, says avid reader Sanjay Gopinath. Marquez helped him blur the boundaries of myth and reality, he adds. Sanjay’s association with Marquez goes back a long time. In 1992, his first year in engineering, he discovered Ekandathayude Nooru Varshangal (One hundred years of Solitude) in his college library book shelf. Sanjay says he discovered Marquez’ complete charm only gradually. “Marquez presented to me shades of love, solitude and silence. He talked about people who rekindled their love half a century later, those who flew and vanished into thin air and storms that raged for years. The imagery manifested itself to me in different tints.”
The Columbian writer has also found a fan in Amrita Mukherjee, communications expert at Infosys, Bangalore, who has been reading him from a very young age. “Perhaps one reason why Garcia Marquez’s romance and stoic life understanding appeals to us is that we as Indians have had a fair bit of exposure to magical realism already. It’s not new to us. We have read Tagore, we have also read Salman Rushdie – we know this style. Perhaps telling tales and fables in the same voice is a trait we share with Latin Americans.”
In fact, there is a lot we share with Latin Americans, the most prominent of which is the concept of a joint close knit family. And that is probably one more reason why the Columbian author appeals to most of us. He has a very familiar take on family dynamics. He also does it with ease in his environment. And that possibly is part of his appeal to readers in all parts of the world as well. His stories of families, complicated emotional dynamics, love and lust are very easy to identify with for everyone. Because, however different they may claim to be, aren’t people the same everywhere. It is only writers like Marquez who stand apart for their phenomenal skills of storytelling.