After the exit

Most Indian fiction in English in the last two decades falls under what is disdainfully referred to in literary circles as “mango pickle" writing. These are elaborately written stories of being raised in an archetypal corner of exotic India, of walking through paddy fields, lying awake in the festering summer heat and the haunting memory of grandmother’s cooking. Smack your lips a last time, because mango pickle stories are now on the wane.

Quarantine: By Rahul Mehta,Random House India,252 pages, Rs399

That is not to say that Mehta has shunned India, it’s just that being Indian is incidental. Whether his characters are exploring touristy Rajasthan or tending to an ailing grandmother in Breach Candy, their pleasures and pains are universal. Quarantine is a delightful read and one that takes sub-continental literature on a leap forward.

The script-turned-book

The Betelnut Killers: By Manisha Lakhe,Random House India,284 pages, Rs250

Lakhe lived in Portland and she knows the topography of the place well. Also on cue are some of her observations about Indian Americans. What lets Betelnut Killers down is what comes across as Lakhe’s contempt for Indian Americans such as Shah. She caricatures them to such an extent that it is impossible for the reader to care about the plot.

The buzz is that Shashanka Ghosh was to make a movie out of the Betelnut Killers. In fact, he put it aside to make Quick Gun Murugan. As things stand now, there is no confirmation on when and if the movie will be made. Which is such a pity because Lakhe’s book is written like a screenplay. Tedious to read, but easy to visualize. Think of it as a Gujarati Murugan in America and pick it up only if you really, really care about that.